It is no secret reusable packaging goes hand-in-hand with sustainability initiatives.

The Reusable Packaging Association, Arlington, Va., wants to find out how it affects the bottom line.

Reusable Packaging Association turns attention to sustainability metrics

The organization is working on a peer-reviewed paper on how reusable packaging fits into corporate sustainability initiatives, and hopes to release it in mid-August, said Jerry Welcome, president.

The paper is written by members of RPA involved with sustainable initiatives, Welcome said.

“We’re taking their knowledge of corporate sustainability policies and seeing how a reusable packaging strategy works with that,” he said. “Being able to determine how you can actually account for it — measure its impact — is part of what we’re trying to take a look at.”

The paper looks at more than just making one less package — it’s about water reduction and waste reduction. 

It should help companies determine if reusable packaging is a solution that works for them.

The RPA hopes to show that despite it being a significant investment up front, reusable packaging is a significant contribution to bottom line profits as well as environmental concerns.

“Sustainability is always viewed in context of an environmental issue,” Welcome said. “We are viewing it in a broader sense — the sustainability of an organization.”

Fred Heptinstall, vice president of the RPA and senior vice president and general manager of Houston-based IFCO Sysetms NA, said while reuse seems to be an obvious component of sustainability, it is vital to have the numbers to back it up.

“It’s important for the reusable packaging industry to continue to supply the market with good, quantifiable information on these benefits to help companies make decisions based on facts instead of hype,” he said. “There’s a lot of confusing information out there. We need hard facts in order to make the best decisions for our companies and our planet.”

RFID comes to fruition

The RPA also released the results of its radio frequency identification study and field test in July.

“I think that we really demonstrated that given a real world test, that we can actually survive within a supply chain scenario,” Welcome said.

Big names in the retail and produce industries such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Frontera Produce Ltd., Stemilt Growers Inc., Tanimura and Antle Fresh Produce, Georgia-Pacific and IFCO Systems participated in the study.

Heptinstall said the study exceeded expectations.

“Reads were faster and a greater percentage were successful than previous industry tests had shown,” he said. “We’re very pleased that the tests demonstrated reusable packaging’s ability to integrate successfully with advanced technology. The tags used were reusable, which reduces waste compared to disposable RFID tags.”

Reusable RFID tags and reusable packaging could be the ideal solution for produce transport packaging, Heptinstall said.