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The next ten years holds great promise to be the decade for reusable packaging.  The Earth is demanding it, governments are incentivizing it, investors are valuing it, companies are championing it, and technologies are enabling it.  There has never been a more opportune time to design and implement reusable packaging models for environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Here are five forward-looking reasons why reusable packaging will excel in the 2020s:

  1. Circular Priority.  The major global challenges of our time will require better solutions to material management and resource conservation.  Impacts from climate change, waste and pollution, and raw material depletion will intensify from rising populations and urban densities.  Reusable packaging systems are proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, eliminate trash and ecosystem contamination, and lower natural resource consumption.  As the preferred “inner loop” activity in a circular economy, reuse achieves both material source reduction and economic growth by extending product utility at its highest performance and value potential.
  2. Systems Thinking.  Reuse propels systems thinking throughout business operations creating new growth channels and efficiencies.  Recognizing the interconnectivity of the world and the complexities of modern enterprise, addressing all parts to unify the whole will be necessary for breakthroughs in problem-solving and commercial gain.  Businesses can no longer afford to act independently of their product’s use cycle through linear transactions.  Collaborations through supply chains, in both forward and reverse directions, will be key.  Adopting reuse systems will establish the company culture and operational building blocks for efficient growth into new markets, such as going from physical retail displays to digital ecommerce deliveries.
  3. Product Design.  Durability, not disposability, should be a primary design objective for packaging.  Product suppliers will discover, and customers will choose, packaging with value-added properties that could not exist in packaging intended for only a single use.  Reusable products offer feature-rich packaging that is smart, interactive, appealing in design, superior in product protection, better in quality preservation, easier to handle, and results in zero waste.  Advancements in material sciences and manufacturing capabilities will further accelerate innovations in reusable packaging designs.
  4. Communication Technology.  Reusable packaging can be equipped with sensors and tracking instruments that transmit real-time data about the condition and location of products.  From Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to Internet of Things (IoT) devices, developments in hardware and software products and services are creating new information-collecting opportunities that are increasingly within economical reach for deployment at scale.  The new Big Data capabilities will enable business decision-making and action on tasks previously inhibited, including forecasting, inventory management, traceability and recall, and quality assurance.  For more insight on technologies for reusable packaging, download the industry white paper here.
  5. Automated Warehouses.  Businesses today, especially in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and retail ecommerce segments, are seeking high-velocity warehouse and order fulfillment operations with limited labor resources.  Integrating process and physical automation in warehouse environments will be essential to keep pace in the market, and packaging that is conducive to robotic handling and order picking will play a critical role to effective automation.  Reusable packaging can be designed with specifications for ideal automated and lasting performance.

By 2030 reusable products will be the dominant choice for the packaging and distribution of goods.  Anything less would be a wasted opportunity for planet, people and profits.

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Tim Debus
President & CEO
Reusable Packaging Association

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