KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Globally, replacing just 20% of single-use plastic packaging with reusable alternatives offers an opportunity worth at least USD 10 billion. Reuse models can bring major user and business benefits including superior user experiences, user insights, brand loyalty, and cost savings.
Single-use plastic items are rarely recyclable and fail to capture the economic benefits of a circular approach. These plastic materials often leak into the environment, and significantly contribute to ocean pollution.
Reusable packaging is a critical part of the solution to eliminate plastic pollution. As part of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, over 350 organizations have recognized that, wherever relevant, reuse business models should be explored to reduce the need for single-use plastic packaging. Such models can help deliver a superior user experience, customize products to individual needs, gather user insights, build brand loyalty, optimize operations, and save costs.
Globally, replacing just 20% of single-use plastic packaging with reusable alternatives offers an opportunity worth at least USD 10 billion. Reuse models can bring major user and business benefits including superior user experiences, user insights, brand loyalty, and cost savings.
Business-to-consumer reuse models differ in terms of packaging ‘ownership’ and the requirement for the user to leave home to refill/return the packaging. The four refill models include:
- Refill at home – users refill their reusable container at home with refills delivered through a subscription service.
- Refill on the go – users refill their reusable container away from home at an in-store dispensing system.
- Return from home – packaging is picked up from home by a pick-up service.
- Return on the go – users return the packaging at a store or drop-off point.
Reuse models have the potential to:
- Cut costs – Packaging and transportation costs can be reduced by supplying refills for reusable containers in compact form, such as in concentrates or solids e.g. as tablets.
- Build brand loyalty – Brand loyalty and customer retention can be achieved through deposit and reward schemes for reusable packaging.
- Adapt to individual needs – Individual needs can be accommodated by reuse models that let users mix and match flavors, personalize packaging or choose desired quantities.
- Improve user experience – User experience can be improved by enhancing the look, feel or functionality of reusable packaging (which can be more high-end as its initial production cost is divided over many uses).
- Optimize operations – Economies of scale for distribution and logistics can be achieved through sharing reusable packaging across brands, sectors or wider networks.
- Gather intelligence – Information on user preferences and system performance can be gathered by incorporating digital technologies such as RFID tags, sensors, and GPS tracking into the reusable packaging system.
Source: Reuse, Rethinking Packaging, Ellen Macarthur Foundation
CASE STUDY EXAMPLES
Austria – Refillable glass milk bottles
In cooperation with Greenpeace Austria, Austria’s largest dairy company, Berglandmilch, introduced a refillable one liter glass milk bottle in February 2020 with the aim of reducing packaging waste. Customers pay a deposit of EUR 0.22 cents per bottle, which they get back when returning the bottles. The reusable milk bottles can be returned via the deposit return machines of trading partners throughout Austria. Instead of being seen as an inconvenience, the change in packaging actually resulted in an increase in sales.
Berglandmilch invested around EUR 8 million to convert its packaging sites in Aschbach in Lower Austria and Wörgl in Tyrol, introducing an additional glass-filling plant, a washing facility and warehouses for glass bottles. In addition to the one liter milk bottle, other reusable products, such as a half-litre reusable bottle, low-fat milk in reusable bottles as well as yoghurt in reusable glasses as also planned.
Source: Seas at Risk.org
Cloth nappy subsidies
An increasing number of cities are encouraging parents to invest in washable nappies by offering subsidies. Using washable nappies not only represents
financial savings for families, but also greatly reduces the waste caused by disposable nappies.
The NGO Ecoconso, which promotes sustainable consumption, published a dedicated article in February 2020 that identified 28 municipalities in the Brussels and Wallonia regions that offer such subsidies. In Flanders,
dozens of municipalities also offer subsidies. Australian cities are also offering subsidies for nappies and sanitary products.
Where subsidies are offered, families can typically benefit from up to EUR 125 per family, while in some municipalities, such as Herstal in Wallonia, inhabitants can claim back 50% of what they spent on washable nappies, at up to EUR 250 per child. In Ghent, inhabitants can receive a subsidy to rent washable nappies for a period of 4 weeks, up to EUR 85 per child.
LØS packaging-free supermarket
In 2016, Franco-Danish former export manager Frederic Hamburger made history by opening LØS market, the first packaging-free supermarket in Denmark. Here, products are sold without any single-use packaging, so shoppers need to bring their own containers, borrow free containers or buy reusables container in the store. LØS market also has a takeaway concept and is currently working on becoming a franchise with many national outlets.
Source: Seas at Risk.org
Reusable fishing crates, Denmark
Danish company Pack and Sea has operated a tracking system for reusable fishing crates since 2008. Key to the tracking system’s success and sustainability is a cooperation between ten Danish harbors, which has made it possible for the harbors to rent the same green crates. Each crate is equipped with two RFID tags with barcodes and a visual number, meaning that they can easily be registered either by scanning or manually. Vessels can pick up crates in any Danish harbour, and exporters who buy fish at auctions can return them at any Danish harbour or at one of a wide selection of Pack and Sea facilities in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and France.
Source: Seas at Risk.org
Loop is a global circular shopping platform designed to eliminate the idea of waste by transforming the products and packaging of everyday items from single-use to durable, multi-use, feature-packed designs. In partnership with major brands and retailers, Loop is launching in the Mid-Atlantic United States and Paris and is in the process of expanding across the United States and internationally, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Japan.
Here’s how it works:
- Shop for leading brands, now reimagined to be waste free and exclusively available through Loop. There are no monthly membership fees or subscriptions – just pay a small fully refundable one-time deposit to borrow the package.
- Receive your durable products in our exclusively designed Loop Tote, a breakthrough zero-waste delivery system that eliminates disposable, single-use shipping materials. Say goodbye to that stack of cardboard boxes, bubble-wrap and ice packs!
- Enjoy products redesigned with innovative new features, unparalleled materials, and counter-worthy aesthetics. Designing for reuse allows our product partners to completely reinvent what packaging and products should look and feel like, and even what they can do.
- No need to trash, recycle, or clean – as you finish enjoying your products, simply place your used products back into the Loop Tote and schedule a free pick up from your home.
- Loop’s state-of-the-art cleaning technology hygienically cleans the empty packages you send back so that they are ready for reuse. You also have the option to set your favorite products to “auto-refill when returned”, so that you never have to worry about adding them to your shopping list.
See more at https://loopstore.com/
Universal Reusable Bottle
The Universal Reusable Bottle model entails the collection, cleaning and reuse of bottles across industry by any participating brand. Customers pay an indirect deposit when purchasing soda in a refillable bottle by receiving a discount on their next purchase when they return the empty bottle to the store – a reward feature that reportedly ensures a return rate of above 90% and creates attachment to the brand, as well as an increased likelihood of repurchase.
Recircle is a Swiss social enterprise funded in 2016 to provide a sustainable alternative to disposable containers for food to go: a system of reusable lunch boxes that restaurants can offer on a deposit scheme. So far, 70,000 Recircle boxes are being used by more than 400 restaurants in Switzerland and in Stuttgart, Germany. Receiving direct support from municipalities fosters Recircle’s outreach, by increasing the project’s credibility and consistency.
Participating restaurants go through a three-month trial period before joining the scheme, where they are given the chance to promote the sustainable option to gauge customer response. The vast majority of restaurants stay with Recircle after the trial period, due to the potential savings the scheme offers from both a waste management and packaging perspective.
In order to use the Recircle lunch box, customers must pay a deposit amount of 10 Swiss Francs. Customers can then either return the box to any of the restaurants that are part of the scheme and get their deposit back, or reuse the lunch box for their next order.
Visit https://zerowasteeurope.eu/downloads/case-study-1-the-story-of-recircle/ to learn more.
Launched by the founders of the RECUP project, REBOWL is a deposit return system for reusable food containers, designed to replace single-use takeaway and delivery food packaging. It is available all over Germany. Customers can borrow a REBOWL – a BPA-free polypropylene bowl with a thermoplastic rubber lid – from participating restaurants and cafes for a EUR 5 deposit. Once returned, bowls are washed and used for the next customer. Visit Rebowl website to learn more.
Globelet builds technology enabled systems that produce reusable products that are trackable and can be linked back to their factories to be washed and reused. From branded reusable cups and water bottles to coffee cups and stemless wine cups, any event can end single-use plastic drinking products in favor of reuse. By combining the reusable cup with a deposit scheme, patrons can either return the cup to collect their refundable deposit, or keep the cup for continued use.
Twickenham Stadium introduced the Re-usable Fan Cup as a solution to the flimsy disposables previously used. During an international event more than 140,000 pints of beer are served, which resulted in 140,000 cups being thrown away in a day and drinks were constantly being spilt due to the flimsy material. Now, not only do the Fan Cups help to make us a more sustainable venue, they have also become a souvenir for visitors on a match day.
See more case studies by visiting: https://www.globelet.com/case-studies
Refill is one of City to Sea’s initiatives to reverse the trend of disposable items. From locating public water fountains to identifying restaurants that don’t use plastic take away containers, Refill connects people to places they can eat, drink and shop without pointless packaging. Visit Refill’s website to learn more.
RePack’s returnable packages are designed to fold into letter size when empty and returned to a postbox, anywhere in the world. Bags are made of durable and recycled materials and come in three adjustable sizes. According to RePack’s assessment, their model reduces CO2 emissions by up to 80% when compared to single-use disposable package deliveries.
We Use provides a reusable cutlery rental and cleansing service for large-scale events in Hong Kong. They help event organizers reduce solid wastes at parties, carnivals, music concerts, outdoor weddings etc., by replacing disposable cutlery usage with high quality, washable tableware.
Excess Materials Exchange
The Excess Materials Exchange (EME) is a digital platform that unlocks the potential of excess materials and products by matching them to their highest value uses. They give materials, products and waste streams a new high-value re-use destination.
Here’s how it works:
- Resources Passport: the Resources Passport gives an overview of the composition, the origin, the toxicity or deconstructability of the material or product, among other things. The passport provides the material or product with an ‘identity’.
- Tracking and Tracing: with tracking and tracing identifiers like barcodes, QR codes and chips, physical materials are paired with their digital Resources Passport. This makes it possible to follow materials throughout their life-cycles.
- Valuation: The maximum potential value that can be derived from a material, product or waste stream is identified and the financial, environmental and social impacts are calculated.
- Matchmaking: the material or product is paired with a new reuse option and with innovation partners within their EME network.
EME’s Pilot Report can be downloaded at the following link: https://excessmaterialsexchange.com/pilot-report-release/
See 69 other reuse examples by downloading the report at https://www.newplasticseconomy.org/about/publications/new-plastics-economy-reuse
Alternatives to reusable packaging include edible packaging.