Reusable Packaging To Reduce Waste

Reusable Packaging To Reduce Waste

With the growth of online ordering from companies such as Amazon, the amount of packaging waste has increased substantially.

Limeloop, a reusable packaging company, has estimated that approximately 165 billion packages are shipped each year in the United States.  This has placed a tremendous strain on waste management and recycling.  Not to mention the amount of materials used to produce the packaging.  For example, this translates to requiring approximately 1 billion trees to produce the cardboard for the packaging.

Limeloop has developed a a durable, lightweight, waterproof pouch that can be returned by the customer, and re-used for shipping as many as 2,000 times.  Limeloop’s initial market is the apparel industry.  But, the plan is to expand to larger packages in other industries.

This post is based on the Fast Company article, Can Online Retail Solve Its Packaging Problem?, by Adele Peters, April 20, 2018. Image source: Ralph125/Getty Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are the benefits to reusable packaging?

Guidance: The obvious benefit is the reduction in waste that must be recycled or sent to the land fill, but consider other benefits which could accrue in the supply chain, including for logistics providers, as these packages are less bulky to handle and lighter weight than cardboard.

2. What challenges should be considered before implementing reusable packaging?

Guidance: First, are customers willing to return the packaging? As more and more customers are embracing environmentally friendly processes, this may not be difficult.  Obviously, the return process must be easy and convenient, and companies may need to offer incentives for returning the packaging, such as a discount for future orders.

Another challenge may relate to cleaning and repairing the packaging.  Can these pouches last 2,000 shipments?  How many uses are required to recoup the cost of the initial package, costs for cleaning and repairing them?

Finally, are these returnable packages truly environmentally friendly?  If returnable packages increases the transportation requirements, does the use of extra fuel outweigh the benefits?

3. How might the supply chain be impacted?

Guidance:  Already, the boom in online sales is stressing the supply chain.  Adding reusable packaging will add to this burden.  Do the warehouses have space for the reusable packages?  If stores are shipping the items, do they have space?

This would also encourage a more “distributed” set of distribution centers as the reusable packages should be returned through the closest location in order to reduce transportation.

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