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The Reusable Packaging Conundrum

Photograph of large rice basket containers stacked up in a wall-like fashion.


#online shopping #Plastic Alternatives #reusable packaging #Reuse


Doug Fogelson

In modern society it has become commonplace to order everything online and have it delivered quickly in cardboard boxes with various other forms of packaging. We also receive many single-use packages when shopping for food and other items. If these packages were made to be reused safely it would certainly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, due to “lack of acceptance, infrastructure, product safety, and cost”, it has been a challenge to implement any lasting feasible solution.

Calculating the carbon of the total “life cycle” of a package (or a product for that matter) is key to assessing the situation, as are the economic and societal impacts. Some of the conundrums include additional transportation needed to reuse and process the packaging vs recycling (if the material is feasibly recyclable), in some cases studies have shown packages often have to be reused many times before they begin to have an effectively lower carbon footprint. Thee calculations include factors like washing or cleaning the reused packages with the highest impact factor from emissions due to extra transportation (vs. the emissions of disposing of a single use).

Examples of workable reuse models are Beverage bottles with a credit for return (to be reused or recycled) and recycling paper products more efficiently and at a higher rate, both can grow–especially with consumers demand it and lawmakers regulating it.

See the articles below for more detailed information on this nuanced situation and some innovative plant-based plastic alternatives that can be composted here.

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