When it comes to understanding why Polymer Logistics RPCs (reusable plastic containers) provide a more sustainable packaging option than alternatives for the food supply chain, the reason is quite simple. It comes down to reusability.
The opportunity for reuse results from their sturdy construction. Polymer RPCs are highly engineered, designed to keep on protecting sensitive products from bruising, trip after trip while offering superior ventilation to extend the shelf life of the perishables they transport.
Even though the atmospheric carbon released in the manufacturing of an RPC is greater than that from producing a corrugated carton, consider that the RPC lasts 50 or 100 trips or more on average, versus just a single shipment for the disposable option. When the greenhouse gas impact of manufacturing 50 or 100 single-use containers is stacked up against that of a single RPC which will eventually move the same amount of tomatoes or pears, the sustainability advantages of RPCs genuinely begin to shine. Even when the energy required for reverse logistics and crate washing is entered into the equation, the RPC still comes out far ahead, according to recent studies from Europe and the US.
Earlier this year, for example, research from the Stiftung Initiative Mehrweg (SIM) of the Fraunhofer Institute IBP (Germany) determined that RPCs used to transport fresh fruit and vegetables generate approximately 60% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than disposable transport packaging. A thorough life cycle analysis was undertaken for both packaging options, including their actual transport performance in France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Analysts determined that around 15 t of CO2 equivalent were emitted when RPCs were used to ship 1,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables, versus over 37 t CO2 equivalent emissions for disposable containers. According to the study, RPCs required just 3,070 kg of plastic versus 52,200 kg of corrugated cardboard containers.
Meanwhile, a 2017 study by Franklin Associates in the U.S. also identified RPCs as a more sustainable option. It compared RPCs with corrugated containers for the shipment of apples, bell peppers, carrots, grapes, iceberg lettuce, onions, oranges, peaches/nectarines, tomatoes, and strawberries. RPCs were found to produce 31% less global warming potential (CO2 equivalents) and 86% less solid waste, while requiring 64% less energy and 80% less water, even though the RPCs were washed after every trip. (The production of corrugated board is very water-intensive.)
RPCs deliver many benefits, including improved sustainability outcomes. If you are looking for low hanging fruit to support your corporate sustainability goals, consider introducing RPCs from Polymer Logistics.