Reusable container maker Arca Xytec Systems Inc. has teamed up with the container leasing and washing services of Hays plc to supply stackable, collapsible and reusable produce cartons to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. nationwide.
Starting in May, the reusable plastic containers, or RPCs, will be injection molded at Arca's Tacoma, Wash., North American headquarters, said Arca President Jan Meijerink. The effort is aimed at improving the handling and display of agricultural products.
Growers benefit from better tracking of their products, and the retailer gets easier-to-handle containers that can be reused.
"Wal-Mart is very much in favor of returnables," Meijerink said.
The shippers and the growers — not Wal-Mart — will pay for the program.
Hays, which is based in Guildford, England, will be responsible for managing, leasing, cleaning and redistributing used containers, Meijerink said. Hays will build a washing line in an undisclosed California location, he said.
Similar Arca products have enjoyed seven years of commercial success throughout Europe, Meijerink said.
Though Meijerink said the traditional cardboard produce boxes always will have a place in transporting products from growers for retail, he thinks Arca's polypropylene cartons have several benefits over cardboard — including a life span of five to 10 years.
"You don't have to take the produce out of the cartons [to] display [it] in the shops — you place the container on the racks and [the product is] displayed immediately," Meijerink said. "Once the crate is empty, you fold it, collapse it and put it back in your warehouse."
Arca hopes to produce 5 million cartons for Wal-Mart and possibly other retailers during the next three years.
"If you only look at Wal-Mart, their needs are enormous," Meijerink said. "If all the retailers join, it's going to be tough for the plastics industry to follow.
"It's nice to gain experience and slowly build up this industry."
Formerly Perstorp Plastic Systems, Arca employs more than 900 worldwide and reports annual sales of more than 180 million euros ($160 million). Arca's world headquarters is in Perstorp, Sweden.