Moving from Opportunistic to Planned Reuse

Is opportunistic reuse of transport packaging a good thing or not, one reader asked me last week.

To take a step back, opportunistic reuse of packaging is simply the taking advantage of on-hand accumulated empty packaging for reuse. Whether dunnage, pallets or containers, on-hand packaging can sometimes fit the bill for reuse.

Furthermore, the opportunistic reuse of packaging can be a first step on the pathway to planned reuse, which is really where Reusable Packaging News and www.packagingrevolution.net come into the picture.  Looked at as a entry point to the eventual adoption of durable reusable packaging, opportunistic reuse can definitely be a positive.

For example, in an opportunistic reuse scenario, a plant that receives palletized inputs may reuse pallets that are emptied during production for the shipping of products, thus avoiding procurement costs for outbound shipping pallets, as well as removal costs for the emptied inbound pallets. But if there is not a degree of standardization, then the supplier pallets may not function well. Pallets may not fit in storage systems, or provide efficient bases for optimal trailer loading.

So part of planning for the reuse of limited use packaging may be in more closely specifying packaging requirements to suppliers – at a bare minimum specifying a pallet footprint, or at a higher level, requesting a specific pallet or performance rating.

But what if the packaging or pallets– say white wood pallets in a reuse program, for example, arrive plentifully, so that effective management of the reusable assets isn’t particularly urgent. With a never-ending supply of pallets, sloppy pallet management habits can take hold. For a company that subsequently makes a move to a higher priced reusable asset, retention can be a serious issue if bad retrieval habits are not corrected before losses mount.

The above notion is to the reader’s point. I used to generally suggest that a company first distill its reuse program with less expensive assets that would be less painful to lose, before making a serious investment. But in doing so, the reader notes, the urgency may not be felt. Better, he feels, to jump dramatically from expendable to durable, and get everyone’s attention in a big way that there is a new container on the scene that will reduce cost and provide environmental benefits, and it needs to be managed very seriously.

However you get to the point of launching a durable reusable packaging program, either directly from expendable or from a less durable reuse system, getting everyone’s attention…and holding it, will be critical to your program’s success. Best that your soapbox is reusable, plus durable.

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