You may consider RPCs an important part of your supply chain, but do you really know those unassuming plastic crates as well as you think you do? To help enlighten you — and lighten up your day — here are the top 10 things you might not know about RPCs (reusable plastic containers) presented à la David Letterman:
- We’ve got history.
Reusable containers in the form of bins, handheld containers, bulk containers, trays and pallets, have been helping safely transport food for decades. The growth of the RPC industry probably traces its roots to plastic milk crates, which were patented in the late 1960s.
- We have our own association.
You’ve arrived as an industry when an association forms to advocate and educate on the marketplace’s behalf. For RPCs, that moment came in 1999, with the founding of the Reusable Pallet and Container Coalition, which has since been renamed the Reusable Packaging Association. The non-profit RPA promotes the interests of members including reusable packaging manufacturers, makers and sellers; raw materials suppliers; and companies that provide RPCs as well as logistics services.
- We have standards — and they’re high ones!
Of course, food safety is a critical concern throughout every phase of the supply chain. The RPA maintains guidelines and best practices for RPCs to help ensure everyone who uses them, and adheres to the standards, can work together to ensure the safety of foods packaged and transported in RPCs.
- RPCs are made of some amazing materials.
That marketing slogan “plastic makes it possible” is certainly true in the RPC industry. Tosca’s RPCs are made of polypropylene impact copolymer, with a black colorant additive and UV stabilizer. Tough, flexible and lightweight, the copolymer is highly heat resistant so it can stand up to the cleaning process we put all of our RPCs through. It also performs well in refrigerated environments, and meets federal guidelines for food safety.
- It all comes out in the wash.
Each RPC undergoes a multi-stage cleaning process between uses to ensure we reduce biological, chemical and physical hazards to provide a food safe container for the perishable supply chain.
- RPCs are cuter than cardboard.
Admittedly, “cuter” might not be the best word, but RPCs have a lot going for them, including reducing shrink that can result from damage to corrugated boxes and their contents, and decreasing the amount of waste a supply chain produces. RPCs also do a better job of quickly cooling perishables like eggs, make it easier to optimize cube efficiency, and require less handling/labor hours to stock store shelves.
- No matter what color your RPC is, it’s green!
Recycling is one of many ways to achieve a greener world, and RPCs are in tune with that. Because they’re made from recycled plastic, creating new RPCs consumes fewer resources. Plus, they can be used over and over again, reducing the need to make new containers. Finally, when an RPC eventually does wear out the plastic it’s made of can be recycled into something else, including new RPCs.
- RPCs work better.
Lifting corrugated boxes can be time-consuming and difficult, especially if you’re working with a variety of sizes and weights. RPCs have features that make them easier to handle, including ergonomic handles, tabs for stacking, secure latches and ventilation. RPCs can help reduce the amount of time workers spend loading and unloading product, and stocking shelves.
- RPCs are super for supply chain efficiency.
Using RPCs can drive supply chain efficiencies in many ways. Their standardized footprint means building store pallets is faster, and they’re more stable. They can go directly to a store shelf reducing labor hours to handstack product or rotate merchandise. They also reduce packaging waste eliminating trips to the baler to dispose of one-way packaging.
- An RPC’s life is a journey.
From its creation out of recycled plastic to its life transporting food from farm to shelf, an RPC’s life is a study of efficiency. By reducing shrink, labor hours and product handling, RPCs help improve supply chain efficiency and protect food quality. They are used over and over again, sometimes making as many as 30 cross country journeys. At the end of their usable lives, RPCs can be reground and used to create new RPCs.