Packaging simply makes sense. It protects goods from damage, contamination and spoiling. We are seeing more and more reusable packaging in the retail market, as an alternative to single use packaging. Supermarket chains offer their customers reusable bottles in reusable crates, reusable bags instead of plastic bags, reusable nets instead of thin plastic bags for fruit and vegetables, reusable lids for yoghurt pots and reusable bowls for takeaway salads.
The companies in the packaging industry are, in principle, open to the trend towards reusable packaging and regularly present innovative solutions that take the desire for more sustainable packaging alternatives into consideration.
However, the comparison between reusable bottles and single use bottles has shown that reusable packaging does not necessarily perform better in ecological balance analysis. Single use bottles are often lighter and receive a better evaluation for transportation in ecological assessments. For other products, analyses show that energy and water consumption during manufacturing and also in purification can have an influence on the ecological balance. Here, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis in order to find the solution that is the most ecological overall for the relevant application.
REUSABLE PACKAGING VIA AN APP
In September 2020, the German supermarket chain REWE presented a digital solution for reusable packaging in the retail market. Together with the start-up VYTAL, the retail giant offers its customers in selected REWE supermarkets (primarily) a free reusable system for the salad bar.
The provision of reusable packaging constitutes a central pillar of the REWE packaging strategy, under the motto “Avoid, reduce, improve”. Photo: REWE
These rigid plastic bowls hold 1,250 millilitres, are dishwasher safe and can be microwaved. This rental system functions entirely without a deposit, unlike the reusable bottle system. Instead, the user registers with the service provider via an app and receives an individual QR code. The customer scans the QR code at the serving station in the suoermarket and can then take the bowl and fill it with salad. The customer has two weeks to return the bowl. If they bring back their bowl within 24 hours, they can give it back unwashed. However, it must be completely closed, completely emptied and have been given a quick clean. If the bowl is rented out for longer period, it must be cleaned with cold water. The process for returning it to the supermarket is similar to the serving process: Scan the code and place the bowl back in the return station. The app users can also hand the reusable packaging back in to other VYTAL partners, including restaurants that offer their guests the reusable bowls for takeaway meals.