(UPDATED COVERAGE, Feb. 15) More than 20 billion pounds of produce have been shipped in reusable plastic containers made by IFCO Systems NA Inc.

Houston-based IFCO announced Feb. 13 that Cincinnati-based retail giant The Kroger Co. put IFCO over the 20 billion-pound mark with a lettuce shipment to the retail chain’s distribution center in Delaware, Ohio, according to an IFCO news release.

Kroger has been receiving produce in IFCO RPCs for more than 15 years and continues to increase its volumes in the containers. Lettuce, grapes, tomatoes, avocados, corn, beans, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, celery and green onions are among the commodities Kroger receives in RPCs.

Kroger estimates its use of RPCs in 2012 will eliminate the use of more than 45 million pounds of waxed and corrugated boxes.

To commemorate reaching the 20 billion-pound mark, IFCO is holding its first customer forum for growers, retailers and strategic partners in Phoenix Feb. 13-15, at which time attendees will discuss best practices for produce packaging in postharvest technology, food safety and supply chain management.