Tracking reusable containers has many economic benefits that we’ve covered in the past; increasing visibility throughout the supply chain means you can collect actionable data to enforce accountability, and reduce the need to replace lost assets – and the costs that accompany that need. But in addition to the improvements in visibility and accountability, one should not overlook the value of sustainability.
Reusable containers are built to be durable, with the capability to be used and re-used to facilitate a considerable number of shipments. These containers often require a greater initial investment, leading some to recommend the use of single-use packaging as the preferable option, and instead increase their rate of recycling used materials in an effort to promote “going green.”
While recycling is a valuable activity when shipping material is no longer usable, and should be encouraged, it will ultimately create waste. Retrieving and recycling requires labor, energy and expense… and even if 100% of the material can be recycle, it is still a waste management process.
By contrast, the use of reusable packaging prevents the generation of such waste. Switching from single-use cardboard boxes to durable reusables – which typically survive more than 250 cycles – can cut the quantity of container material needed for one million shipments by up to 98.5 percent.
In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has developed a four-tiered waste management hierarchy to guide waste management decision-making (viewable here), and it stresses that reuse is preferred to recycling. The best way to eliminate waste, conserve resources and reduce our environmental impact is to reduce the source of waste. Reusing what has been made, and recycling what can be recovered, are lower-tier priorities.
Deploying reusable containers throughout your supply chain, and the effective management of those reusables, is an effective system of preventing industrial waste through reuse, rather than the waste-management of disposable packaging.