Reusables for consumers: what could go wrong?


If running a reusable packaging program seems easy, it is because, at Reusable Packaging News, we celebrate the companies that get it right. It’s not rocket science, but most of us have been around long enough to know that things can go sideways.

As I read enthusiastic responses to the Loop Initiative (my own, included) and the reuse concept more generally, I’m given pause to think about the missteps – the reusable packaging projects that have failed in the past due to unrealistic business plans, products that missed the mark, underwhelming implementations, asset loss or theft, etc.

While the simplistic image of the milkman who arrives like clockwork on a regular schedule to pick up one generic type of reusable bottle is romantic, the reality of reusable asset management is often much more complex.

Reusables will not return on their own, dozens or hundreds of different reusable SKUs won’t sort themselves, and they won’t know who to call if they stray “out of network.” And if deposits and product pricing create a pain point, consumers will be reticent to adopt the system.

I believe reuse is critical, including the adoption of reusables for consumer products. But just a heads up to operators that when it comes to implementing a reusable packaging program, things have gone wrong and will go wrong. Reusables for consumer products are too important to screw up. System development and execution will be critical. So let’s learn from history as well as from the many companies that have long enjoyed successful reusable packaging programs in the B2B space.

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