Sustainable Packaging Focus on Reuse in 2010

Dennis Salazar

January 30, 2014

4 Min Read
Sustainable Packaging Focus on Reuse in 2010

It is that time of the year for projections and when prognosticators tell us what to expect this coming year and new decade. I admit not having a crystal ball and prove it on an almost daily basis, yet I believe there are some trends developing that are fairly obvious, if you know where to look.

The Other “R”



One of the trends that I see becoming most obvious is a serious interest on the third or forgotten R in sustainability, which is reuse. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where the plot revolved around “the other guy” in the famous singing trio, The Three Tenors. Reuse is the R many people have a difficult time remembering when asked. Most people remember recycle and reduce, just like music enthusiasts and Three Tenors fans, quickly deliver the names of Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. However much like the third tenor, Jose Carreras, reuse seems to be overshadowed by the company it keeps.

Why is Reuse Coming out of the Shadows?

Reducing packaging materials is a never ending task and opportunity since new and improved, stronger materials are introduced every day. For example, thin gauge LDPE, one mil and thinner films are now satisfying applications that a couple of years ago required a 1.5 mil or even 2.0 mil thick film.

I do believe however much of that low hanging fruit, or most obvious material reduction opportunities have been taken by the companies inclined to do so. In other words, if a company has not already taken advantage of the potential cost savings material reduction offers, they are probably less likely to see the light in the coming year.



Then there is the most popular R, which is recycle. Everyone talks about it and agrees it is a good idea, but most also agree as a society we probably recycle less than 40% of what is recyclable. Don’t misunderstand, there is no greater advocate than me of using recycled as well as recyclable packaging materials but that too is likely to only deliver incremental gains in 2010. Until recycling becomes more profitable or mandatory and using recycled materials is required of the largest packaging users in our country, this is an uphill battle and a good topic for a different blog post.

Simply put, reuse will grow in 2010 because it represents the largest potential savings and the economic and bottom lines are still the largest motivators for any action, including a move in the green direction.

What Makes Reuse Such A Good Option?

Common sense tells us that the easiest and greenest alternative is the reuse of a packaging product that has already been made and previously used. There is virtually no transportation fuel required to ship raw materials, components or the finished product itself. The energy it required to manufacture and ship has already been consumed so any use beyond the initial use is an environmental bonus. In most cases, the more often you are able to use a packaging product, the smaller its carbon footprint becomes. We believe that 2010 is the year when we start becoming a less wasteful society in our homes and our businesses and reuse is an important part of that eco focused strategy.

The Challenges

First and foremost the manufacturers of packaging products need to start thinking in terms of product reuse. Most packaging materials are designed to be single use and disposable. If sustainability is a paradigm shift for consumers, making reusable packaging materials is an even greater change for the companies manufacturing them.

For as long as they have been around, packaging manufacturers have seen the economic benefit of selling throw away products because that obviously helps them to sell more products. So now we as consumers need to encourage and motivate those same companies by choosing, buying and reusing the products that are designed to be used multiple times. We need to provide them with the market share they crave and that will drive their competitors to respond with similar products.

2010 and Beyond

As I have mentioned many times, there is no single solution to the enormous environmental problems we have created so a combination of “all of the above” is perhaps the best long term solution. After all Jose Carreras has an incredible voice but he seems to sound best when he sings with those two other guys.

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