Packaging Innovation
April 7, 2014

Reusable secondary packaging vs expendable packaging

Today, one of the packaging industry’s main objectives is to create environmentally friendly designs. The goal is to make great looking packages that are, above all, easy to recycle. While very noble and necessary, it cannot be denied that there is another, more effective way of achieving sustainability: simply reusing packaging. The last couple of years reusable secondary packaging seems to have disappeared from radar, while it shouldn’t have.

On its website the European Commission states the following:

“The reuse of packaging is one of the priority instruments which should be used in order to prevent the generation of packaging waste. During the last years, many reuse systems have been replaced by the growing use of one-way packaging, particularly plastic bottles and composite packaging. Although their recycling rates are continually improving, such one-way packaging systems greatly contribute to the overall generation of packaging waste and can in certain conditions prove difficult to recycle. Packaging waste today accounts for about 20% of the weight and 40% of the volume of municipal waste.”

Prevent rather than recycle packaging

Many manufacturers have very effective recycling programs, yet landfills are still piling up globally. Reusable packaging, on the other hand, prevents waste from being created in the first place. One area which shows a lot of potential in the war against packaging waste is secondary packaging. Things like wood pallets, wood crates, cardboard boxes and other containers that are used to ship, and wrapping materials used to hold shipments together, such as plastic stretch film, could be made considerably more environmentally friendly if they could be reused.

The benefits of reusable secondary packaging

So what’s keeping industry leaders from producing reusable secondary packaging? Well, first and foremost there is the initial cost: reusable packaging costs five times as much as expendable packaging. What is often dropped from the calculation, though, is that reusable packaging lasts 100 times as long.

Other benefits of reusable secondary packaging include:

  • Reusable secondary packaging is standardized and, as such, more efficient, resulting in faster loading times and a more streamlined overall production process.
  • Another benefit of standardization is that workers are familiar with the production process, thus reducing the number of injuries, as mistakes are less likely to occur.
  • Reusable packaging is usually stronger and more resistant to moisture.
  • Reusable packaging generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions (according to Use Reusables up to 29 percent).

Apart from investing in recycling technologies, the packaging industry mustn’t forget the most effective alternative: reusing packaging.