Reusable Packaging: Yay or Nay?

Published October 16, 2019

In recent years, the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry has seen a growing shift towards sustainable and eco-friendly packaging options. Fully recyclable packaging and stand-up pouches in a variety of designs are leading the way. These advancements, coupled with evolving consumer demands and a quickly-changing environment, are prompting a further shift towards the ultimate environmentally-conscious option: reusable packaging. But what exactly is reusable packaging, and is it the best move for your product or brand?

The Rise of Reusable Packaging

Disposable, single-use products like water bottles, plastic-wrapped sandwiches, and plastic utensils are substantial contributors to waste and garbage buildup. Significant efforts are being made towards waste reduction, like the introduction of the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap (FWRR), which hopes to prompt further positive advancement by encouraging CPG suppliers to evaluate their operational processes.

In addition to reducing waste, other concepts are being introduced in hopes of improving economical packaging. Among these efforts is the increasing push towards the use of reusable packaging. Products like durable, multi-use shopping bags, wooden eating utensils, and reusable plastic bags encourage consumers to preserve the environment while saving their budgets—a win/win for many. As the reusable packaging trend continues to grow, several brands are stepping up to take advantage of the environmental shift.

TerraCycle’s Loop Leads the Way in Reusable Packaging

The new kid on the block when it comes to environmental packaging, TerraCycle’s Loop project promises to help eliminate waste from the planet. TerraCycle explains their Loop as a big-picture initiative that begins when a consumer orders products that are delivered to their doorstep in a reusable tote. When the products are gone, the empty package is placed back in the tote, alerting Loop to pick it up. TerraCycle is responsible for sorting and cleaning the reusable items and returning the empty, clean packages to consumers for refilling. The “Loop” is complete when new products arrive at consumers’ homes to refill the now clean containers.

Just one of many brands attempting to make the most of the current environmental shift, TerraCycle is encouraging manufacturers and consumers alike to consider the pros and cons of reusable packaging and other similar endeavors. Understanding the logistics of reusable packaging is crucial in deciding if utilizing it is a good move for any given brand or consumer base.

Advantages of Reusable Packaging

There are significant environmental benefits associated with reusable packaging, chief of which is that it often allows companies to increase their bottom line. Reusable packaging can improve worker and operator safety and reduce injuries of all types by eliminating unnecessary parts of the packaging process. It also reduces waste management costs by minimizing recycling and disposal costs. 

Most valuable to big brands and CPG manufacturers, though, are the environmental benefits offered by reusable packaging. Although the specific advantages can vary, most reusable packaging materials bring with them a reduction in the need for landfills and disposal sites, more local community support, and reduced emissions and energy consumption for the company.

Potential Challenges of Reusable Packaging

The advantages of utilizing reusable packing are many, but it also presents new challenges for CPG manufacturers and consumers alike throughout the production and distribution processes. Quickly changing consumer trends force brands to pass front-end costs on to consumers. With reusable packaging continuing to rise and initiatives like Loop gaining popularity, these front-end costs will likely include deposits on reusable containers. Higher fees can deter consumers from purchasing or subscribing to a specific product, potentially outweighing the benefits of using reusable packaging in the first place. 

In addition to higher consumer costs, the complicated logistics required to coordinate reusable packaging initiatives requires substantial time and a large budget. Finally, the current lack of efficiency in environmental packaging efforts means reusable packaging might not be worth the time and funds needed to execute this type of large-scale attempt until further advances are made.

What Packaging Changes Mean for the CPG Industry

Most manufacturers and consumers agree that reducing emissions and improving environmental efforts are weighty causes. However, the path to environmentally-friendly manufacturing and packaging processes is not yet clear. Being prepared for the continued evolution of reusable packaging is key to successfully navigating this shift. Staying up-to-date on packaging trends isn’t enough. And remaking the wheel is a poor use of resources. Instead, success in the face of change takes an unwavering commitment to high-quality products and a willingness to grow with one’s customers.

Embrace Better Packaging With the Right Manufacturer

At INSITE, we’re passionate about leveraging technological advances wherever possible to make our machines simpler and smarter so you can be prepared for every packaging advancement. We designed our case erecting and case sealing machines to deliver only the best performance, and we also provide 24/7 customer service. If you aren’t sure your current manufacturer can prepare you to embrace packaging changes with confidence, contact INSITE today.

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