Waste takes many shapes in a retail operation, be it discarded packaging, damaged food, time spent on unproductive practices, or mileage wasted on carrying half-full loads. It is damaging from an environmental as well as business perspective, so it is no surprise that improving sustainability is high on the agenda for many companies. However, balancing this goal with the need to remain profitable in an increasingly competitive environment is not an easy task. Fortunately, reusable plastic crates offer a simple and effective way for forward-thinking retailers to introduce sustainable practices to the supply chain and reap the benefits of improved efficiency, better productivity, and reduced costs. Here Tosca outlines three steps to help you tackle waste and build a stronger, higher-performing supply chain.
Eliminate the primary source of packaging waste
Many retailers rely on corrugated packaging due to its perceived low cost and easy recyclability. Unfortunately, however, the nature of perishables doesn’t make recycling corrugated simple. Excessive moisture, the presence of substances such as oil, or an abundance of packaging tape can make corrugated unsuitable for recycling. Yet staff still need to spend time breaking down boxes, taking them to the bailer, and preparing them for transport, only for some of them to end up in a landfill. Efficiency suffers, and the operation continues to generate waste.
Replacing corrugated boxes with reusable polypropylene crates helps eliminate a significant source of packaging waste. Unlike corrugated, which travels only one way through the supply chain, reusable plastic crates contribute to the circular economy. They can be reused over 100 times, after which they can be recycled into new products. Research shows that every plastic crate used helps remove up to 1.5 pounds of corrugated from retail supply chains, resulting in a tangible reduction in waste. Plastic crates are also easier to manage, they are straightforward to handle, quick to display on the shop floor, and simple to reuse, enabling store colleagues to minimize time spent on managing packaging to focus on tasks that add value to the operation.
Protect fresh products from damage
Reducing food waste is a hot topic for businesses and consumers alike. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), food waste accounts for around 8 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. From a business perspective, the amount of revenue lost in food waste is substantial. It is estimated to cost the global economy around 750 billion dollars per year. Corrugated packaging can leave delicate perishable products vulnerable to damage during storage, transport, and handling, resulting in them being discarded as waste. As corrugated doesn’t tolerate moisture well, any leakages can compromise the boxes’ structure, putting the products at risk. Due to its permeable surface, corrugated can also harbor fungi, bacteria, or pests, making maintaining optimal hygiene a challenge.
Keeping products well protected through their journey in the supply chain is key to eliminating food waste. Plastic crates play a crucial role here, as they are up to four times stronger than corrugated, enabling them to protect products better at every stage. They are also stackable, reducing risk during storage and transport. Unlike corrugated, plastic is also hygienic by design, and the crates are well-ventilated, helping safeguard the quality of fresh produce. With more fresh products reaching the shop floor in perfect condition, retailers can enhance profitability as well as sustainability.
Optimize transport efficiency
Trucks carrying products from suppliers to warehouses and the store are an integral part of retail supply chains. As corrugated boxes come in a range of shapes and sizes, with most trucks carrying a mix of products, filling the vehicle to its full capacity is often impossible. Furthermore, the structural challenges associated with corrugated mean that overloading can harm productivity if unstable stacks topple over, or boxes crush during transit.
Using all available capacity is essential for eliminating empty mileage. Here reusable plastic crates offer several significant advantages compared to corrugated boxes. First of all, they are uniform in size, with a standardized footprint. They are also built to be more robust and designed to interlock together, making it safe to stack them higher than corrugated without any risk of crates being crushed or the stacks becoming unstable. The better utilization of space enables more products to be fitted in each truckload, and fuller trucks equal fewer vehicles on the road, saving emissions and minimizing fuel costs.
As these examples demonstrate, replacing corrugated boxes with reusable plastic crates gives retailers a simple and effective way to address waste and improve sustainability across key areas of operation. Reusable plastic crates offer a green alternative to single-use corrugate, with unrivalled advantages in strength, ease of handling, display, and hygiene. They also help tackle many of the inefficiencies stemming from the reliance on corrugated, providing businesses with new ways to optimize productivity and improve their bottom line.
To find out more about how Tosca’s range of reusable plastic crates can help you enhance sustainability in your supply chain, download our whitepaper From waste to value: Unlocking sustainability and new efficiencies in the supply chain here.