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  February 21st, 2024 | Written by

How to Make Reusable Packaging Scalable for Better Sustainability

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Manufacturers, supply chain workers and the packaging industry must collaborate to make reusable packaging scalable for a greener planet. Single-use containers should have never become the norm, as the byproducts litter landfills, oceans and communities. Reusable packaging at scale is possible with commitment, overcoming financial fears, and understanding its long-term benefits and eco-conscious impact. 

These imperative suggestions will guide every sector to ethical packaging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Recognize Price Is Not the Issue

Many manufacturers refuse to transition to more ethical packing materials because of costs. Industries have created a narrative that reusable packaging is more expensive, but this is not true, even with a rise in overall demand and consumerism. Single-use packaging makers know they can upcharge their products because of heightened demand, making prices competitive. 

Manufacturers have never challenged their mental associations with single-use options and cost-effectiveness because single-use has historically trended cheaper. Now is the time to reevaluate. The cost of materials has risen 23% in two years. Compounding that with the energy and labor costs of making it usable for clients marks it up even more to a staggering 80% spike. 

By 2024, reusable alternatives will be cheaper than single-use when considering the big picture.

Outside of internal costs are recycling and disposal charges called eco-taxes. Concepts like carbon taxes and extended producer responsibility add millions more to budgets to account for wanton waste disposal. Manufacturers and packing companies avoid these fees with reusable packaging at scale.

Abate Hygienic Concerns

Public concerns over the cleanliness of reusable packaging are a primary deterrent to consumer buy-in. Around 38% of customers say reusable products need to be cleaner. These feelings are leftover from events like the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented reusable packaging in places where it had become ubiquitous, like coffee shops. 

Companies must tackle this issue, not consumers. It is a scaling concern because the more confident customers become about the safety and cleanliness of products, the faster supply chains rewrite assumptions about sustainable packaging. Eliminating fear increases profits, making eco-conscious options even more inexpensive. These are a few routes manufacturers can take to ease concerns:

  • Offering sanitation stations in bulk stores for consumers and staff
  • Publishing footage on in-house cleaning processes throughout the supply chain
  • Posting educational resources for customers on how to detect unclean or defective reusable packaging and how to clean their own 

Lobby for Legislation

Regulations unfold at the speed of sound when corporations make their voices heard. If all manufacturers gathered together to tell their national governments how much of a priority reusable packaging was, meaningful collaborations and conversations would manifest in trying to make that happen. It would become a forced priority instead of a voluntary one. 

Reusable packaging does not scale well right now due to a failure in commitment. Many companies run trials or tests for research purposes to see how well circular packaging performs. Enterprises see the data, obtain the press for embracing environmental, social and governance goals, and continue business as usual. Higher customer engagement must motivate continued efforts instead of representing a temporary boon in publicity. Trials should continue. Supply chains must see it as the first step to commercial adoption.

Further testing allows corporations to hone in on the key performance indicators that match their ESG and corporate social responsibility objectives. Businesses must make testing reusable packaging an even higher priority if results are not as expected or wanted from a single trial run. Companies should experiment until they find the hidden value potential behind a reusable packaging model.

Optimize Reusable Packaging for Shipping

Many reusable packages are heading to pallets, into trucks and across nations to customers. Transporting it and what is inside might be the most expensive part of the process. It does not have to be if companies optimize the containers for efficient shipping, making it easier to scale in even the most considerable quantities.

For example, creating a bottle with a square base allows more to fit in a box or truck while minimizing the negative space circular versions would create.

Reinforcing packaging during transport is another way to save costs. Workforces will mark less inventory as waste if fewer units are damaged from shipping vibrations and collisions and collisions in transit. Reusable packaging creates sustainable reinforcement solutions that solidify financial foundations while improving the product’s scalability.

Create Refills Without a Need for Packaging

Developing infrastructure to return materials is the ideal setup for most supply chains. Corporations could have local kiosks, drop-off points, pickup services or other solutions to reclaim materials consumers purchased. Supply chains and manufacturers would then clean, recycle and repurpose the same packaging materials for new products. It requires choosing infinitely recyclable materials like glass or using more creative alternatives. 

For example, compostable packing peanuts can stay with customers for their piles or go back to providers to nourish the lands they use for sustainable lumber for paper and wood-related packaging products.

A take-back system is ideal, but plenty of reusable packaging models exist. Cleaning company Blueland and supplement business Mushroom Design sell glass containers for their products only once. Customers purchase refills and concentrates with less or no packaging to place back into the glass containers. People may buy refills online or supply chains can partner with grocery stores or other local programs to create waystations for topping off products without unnecessary shipping costs and packaging.

These structures make reusable packaging at scale simpler. It reduces packaging costs because more products do not have it. Additionally, providing refill points for consumers is infinitely scalable, reducing the obstacle of convenience customers associate with reusable packaging.

Reusable Packaging at Scale Is a Reality Now

These are the best ways for manufacturers to make a difference in sustainable packaging. Modern research shows how cost-effective it is to consider the planet first and profits second. In the next few years, sustainable packaging will be an avenue for scaled growth and more resilient bottom lines. The transition garners brand loyalty and the likelihood of locking customers in for the long term. 

The only action manufacturers must take is to be transparent about their reusable packaging decisions and advocate for standardization to make it a global norm.