Reusable Containers: Clever, Cost-Effective, Convenient

Lighting recycling specialist Lumicom, lighting maintenance company David Webster (DW) and waste management specialist Sims Group recently launched a series of pilot trials in the United Kingdom to explore ways of improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of recycling waste street lanterns. A key element of the scheme has been to eliminate the double handling of waste lanterns by using reusable containers for storage as well as for transport of new lanterns, thus recycling packaging as well as lanterns. This idea is hardly new in the United States. According to the Package Design Magazine, since as early as 1959, a company in Wisconsin has been using reusable containers to reduce costs and enhance efficiency in distribution packaging. The idea is simple: because containers such as plastic bulk containers, plastic pallets, metal bulk containers, and wood crates are highly reusable, companies using them can avoid spending time and money on purchasing new containers and discarding old ones. As these containers are designed for many years of use, they are sturdy and capable of protecting the valuables inside in rough shipping environments. Most importantly, by using reusable containers and helping conserve energy and natural resources, businesses can considerably boost their green credentials. Particularly in the past two decades, more companies have discovered the benefits of using reusable containers. A good example is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company in San Leandro, California, which has been producing premium chocolate products since 1852. The company used to spend $520,000 per year on 580,000 cardboard boxes for internal distribution, with an additional $2,700 spent on their disposal. A study conducted by StopWaste.org found in 2005 that by using reusable containers, Ghirardelli would be able to achieve $1.95 million in net packaging reduction savings over five years and prevent 350 tons of soiled cardboard boxes each year. Its hundreds of workers would also be less likely to develop repetitive stress injuries from taping and opening cardboard boxes. In 2007, the Grocery Manufacturers/Food Products Association (GMA/FPA) in Washington, D.C. published a ´┐ŻCase Studies in Sustainability´┐Ż report that examines how manufacturers and retailers can maximize operational efficiencies and reduce the overall environmental footprint of their supply chains. The report found that by combining the use of reusable containers with advanced shipping methods such as the pallet pooling system, a typical business that ships 100,000 product unit loads per year can reduce solid waste by more than one million pounds, which is equivalent to 46 dump trucks filled with waste. Not only can this business save 3.3 billion BTUs of energy (equivalent to 86 homes powered by electricity for a year), but it can also avoid release of more than 250 tons of greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent to 49 passenger cars taken off the road). The advantages of using reusable containers in product transport and distribution are evident. To further explore how to reduce costs, enhance efficiency and protect environment, businesses can seek advice from professional agencies such as the Reusable Packaging Association and industry experts such as Container Exchanger. by: David Madden Founder, Container Exchanger  

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