“Reusable” Packaging is Bigger than Expected

Dennis Salazar

January 30, 2014

3 Min Read
“Reusable” Packaging is Bigger than Expected

On January 9th I wrote a post on this blog about what I saw to be a trend in the use of packaging designed for reuse. I also wrote about packaging reuse on my blog, Inside Sustainable Packaging, and would eagerly share that opinion with anyone interested and willing to listen.
A few months later I have to admit I may have grossly underestimated the interest and potential. Reuse is clearly the new buzz word in sustainability and I am thrilled the long “forgotten R in sustainability” is finally drawing some much deserved attention.
What the Green Market Wants


We recently launched a brand new reusable corrugated box design able to be turned inside out for additional use. It works fine in many applications but what we’ve found is that in some operations, using a container more than a few times is very desirable. What people are asking for is essentially a plastic box. Not a tote, drum or bin with a lid, they want a box made of plastic that potentially can be used twenty or more times.
The material used to make plastic boxes looks very similar to corrugated board in that it is a layer of fluted material sandwiched in between two sheets of plastic. It offers many of the same benefits of corrugated in that it can be easily made lighter or heavier duty by making the fluting and liner sheets thicker or thinner. It can also be die cut into almost design or size including RSC, and what the industry calls a die cut reclosable mailer.
What the Green Market Needs
What they need is the same thing everyone else needs and that is to reduce costs! The corrugated industry just announced its second substantial price increase since the first of the year. We can debate the “need versus greed” of this latest increase but let’s agree corrugated boxes are not likely to become less expensive any time soon.
What these multiple increases are doing however is closing the gap in terms of cost between standard single use corrugated boxes and the variety of containers that are available today that are not reused by default or incidentally, but actually designed to provide a long, extended, multiple use life in certain applications. Suddenly a substantially more expensive box is a bargain if it can be reused many times.


Please don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating or predicting the replacement of corrugated boxes with plastic boxes because that is not likely or possible. From a practical standpoint the cost versus return on investment may not make sense. That is why every situation has to be evaluated on its own merit and there are no standard or stock answers that apply to everyone.
Plastic boxes are ideal for closed loop or round trip situations where the box and its higher initial cost can be recovered. They are too expensive to throw out and definitely too expensive to lose in the shipping process. In addition, plastic boxes have one drawback that some green minded people will object to - they are made of plastic. We continue our love/hate affair with plastics and while we like the durability and wash- ability of these new style shipping boxes, yes, that are indeed made of plastic resin that comes from oil or natural gas.
So, are Plastic Boxes REALLY Green?
Check back in for part two of this post. The answers may surprise you.

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