McKinsey & Company recently posted an article about reusable packaging, The potential impact of reusable packaging. Spoiler alert, the study determines that in two categories modeled (e-commerce and food takeout), reusables place a distant second. Given the rivalry that exists in the market between reusable packaging proponents and single-trip packaging solution providers, there was a predictable wave of comments on LinkedIn. Those posted to date are shown below. So far, it has also been “liked” 54 times.
The purpose of the McKinsey reusable packaging article, according to the authors, is to “further the dialogue on packaging choice and broaden the available fact base related to reusable versus single-use packaging.” McKinsey modeled two potential reusable packaging use cases for the European market, food takeaway and e-commerce. The paper offered environmental and cost comparisons between the reusable packaging options and single-trip options.
Interest in reusable packaging has exploded over recent years, and the article cautions that reusable packaging systems face barriers to success. “…many trials in the pilot phase are unable to scale. One simple explanation for this is that there are several limiting factors within the current packaging value chain, mainly linked to a lack of acceptance, a lack of infrastructure, regulatory pushes for reductions in overall packaging, product safety, and cost.”
Not always the best option, and not necessarily easy
I’m making a general comment here, but it does resonate to a degree in the article. For some reason, there has recently been a narrative that people need to be made aware that implementing a reusable packaging system is not always the best choice and that it is not easy – that it’s complicated. I’m still trying to figure out who told those people are who are claiming that it was going to be easy and universally the best choice – other than those opposed to it!
I don’t know of anyone within the reusable sector who would tell you that implementation is easy or that it is the best match for every use case. It is complex, like a lot of other systems we rely upon. But behind the scenes, off-camera, any packaging system is complex, even a single-use system. The thing about a reusable system is that in a successful closed loop or pool, it is a complexity that can be controlled, unlike the complexity of a single-use system that unravels post-use, out of sight, as packaging material ends up in recycling systems, trash, or loose in the wild. There are always financial and sustainability implications, whether reusable or single-use. But I digress.
Among other things, LinkedIn comments questioned the validity of model inputs, motivation, and objectivity. Find comments below.
McKinsey reusable packaging article responses