Returnables: Will They Work for You?

Returnables are packaging containers that can be reused multiple times. Some reusable containers can be used hundreds of times before they reach the end of their life. For the most part, returnables are a cost equation. The increased costs and management of the containers must be compared to the cost of non-returnable containers to see if they are a viable option.

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As with most things, there are advantages and disadvantages to returnables. Let’s talk about the advantages first. Reusable packaging reduces the amount of solid waste produced by single use packaging. Ergonomically speaking, returnables are often designed with handles or other ease of handling features which would be costly on disposable package. Disposal cost is reduced because there are fewer returnables going into landfills than the number of one way disposable packages.

As for the disadvantages, the initial startup costs of returnables can be high. Not to mention that customizing the dunnage you need can increase prices as well. Another thing to consider is if a product is not transported on both legs of a trip the cost of returning the returnable packaging may add up and be a less sustainable alternative than simply using non-returnable packaging. So, optimizing unfilled returnables is ideal, but planning is required to make this a successful venture as floor space in a facility to hold returnables is also billable. Storage space for empty returnables is a disadvantage as space in a warehouse has to be used for storing the empty containers. And finally, proper accounting and tracking is necessary to make sure all returnables are returned.

After hearing the advantages and disadvantages of returnables, you can see the use of returnables is not the best option for every company. Read through the following features - if they are present in a company’s logistical system, the use of returnables is a good idea.

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However, if two or more of these features are not present, returnables are likely not a viable option. Head on over to the Packaging Distribution course to learn more about returnables.