When good business practices align with the greater good, the results can be rewarding on multiple levels. The inexorable movement toward broader use of reusable packaging in the grocery industry is proving to be a good business investment for suppliers and retailers. What’s more, it’s a long-term investment in the welfare of the environment, one that will continue to show returns for decades to come.
Benefits for businesses
By now, the cost advantages of reusable packaging are becoming more apparent. Grocery retailers, suppliers and distributors can achieve significant savings throughout every stage of the supply chain when using reusable plastic containers (RPCs). Reusable packaging reduces costs in many ways, including:
- Reducing packing time at the farm or distribution facility.
- Providing superior product protection in transit which reduces shrink and damage.
- Ease of handling reduces labor costs throughout the supply chain.
- Elimination of packing waste reduces disposal costs.
Transitioning to RPCs has saved hundreds of grocery retailers, suppliers and distributors thousands of dollars. In one case, a national grocery retailer was able to reduce shrink 50 percent by switching to RPCs.
It’s easy to understand the significant value reusable packaging presents for businesses. But are you aware that by choosing reusable packaging, you’re also investing in the greater good?
Benefits on a global scale
A presentation by the Reusable Packaging Association at MODEX in April makes a compelling case for how adoption of reusable packaging by domestic grocers can actually have a global impact. The presenters cited a United Nations report that predicts the current world population of just over 7 billion people will grow to 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by the turn of the next century.
Population growth puts great stress on the planet, and is a contributing factor in global warming, resource scarcity and waste generation. In a year, about $11.4 billion of disposable packaging ends up in landfills, according to research by the nonprofit organization As You Sow. In addition to the discarded packaging itself, 63 million tons of food gets wasted annually, according to ReFED. Millions of tons of food are wasted when disposable packaging fails to protect products from damage and spoilage.
Broader adoption of reusable packaging will lead to significant reductions in waste generation. Less waste will be beneficial on multiple levels, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution associated with incinerating waste, to curtailing the amount of material that goes into landfills.
Reusable packaging also has the potential to help reduce food waste, and curbing food waste can help address hunger around the world. In the U.S., 40 percent of the food grown and cultivated — $165 billion of goods — here gets wasted each year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Yet one in seven Americans is food insecure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.
Investing in the future
The RPA’s presentation also makes a critical point — consumers continue to express affinity for businesses that they perceive as being socially responsible and engaged in environmental stewardship. Their preference for reusable packaging is growing, and their tolerance for products and packaging perceived as being damaging to the environment is shrinking.
Even if business decision-makers are not yet convinced that universal use of reusable packaging is the future of the grocery industry, their customers almost certainly are. Proactively adopting reusable packaging through all phases of the supply chain is not only the right thing to do for the environment (and the world), it’s good business sense, too.