In an effort to become the leading voice for reusable packaging in the supply chain, the 9-year-old Reusable Pallet & Container Coalition has renamed itself the Reusable Packaging Association.
``We want to be the catalyst for making reusables the dominant supply-chain solution,'' said RPA President Fred Hepinstall. He also is president and general manager of IFCO Systems N.A. Inc.'s RPC Management Services division in Tampa, Fla., a provider of returnable plastic containers.
``We want people to look at the value of reusable packaging and its economic, environmental and social benefits, and expand the market penetration for reusables,'' Hepinstall said.
The Washington-based association's new mission will focus on reusable packaging systems, rather than specific products like pallets and containers, according to Jeanie Johnson, RPA executive director.
``We need to bring to the forefront a different kind of nomenclature,'' she said.
``Everyone knows the word `recycle.' We have to make sure everyone knows the word `reuse.''' That includes the benefits of reusing different types of packaging, Johnson noted.
RPA will promote reusable packaging products made from plastics, wood, steel or other durable materials. Previously, RPCC had largely represented companies that used pallets and containers to ship perishable food and produce.
``There has been a lot of growth overall in reusables in the supply chain and there was no existing organization to fill that void,'' Hepinstall said in a telephone interview. ``We want to help the industry get above the clutter to explain where reusables fit'' in the discussions about sustainability, he said.
``Environmental trends make reusable packaging an attractive solution to handle products throughout the supply chain with minimal impact on the environment,'' he said.
A case in point: The association was instrumental in getting Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to add reusables as a category for transport packaging in its packaging scorecard, according to Hepinstall.
Hepinstall said RPA intends to engage in more partnerships that advance the industry, such as the alliances it already has developed with the Twin Cities and with stopwaste.org of Oakland, Calif., the public authority responsible for waste management programs in Alameda County.
He also said RPA would continue to conduct research that demonstrates the benefits of reusables compared with other types of packaging. He pointed to a comprehensive field-test of the use of radio-frequency-identification tags in transport packaging that the group began in November.
RPA also has a new Web site, www.choosereusables. org.
Hepinstall underscored that RPA intends to represents the interests of members of the entire supply chain, including end users. He said RPA's membership composition already has begun to change.
A year ago, about 70 percent of RPA's members were focused on perishable meats and produce, but that demographic is now only about 40-50 percent of the current membership, he said.
He noted the addition of pallet and container rental or pooling companies Chep USA of Orlando, Fla., and Intelligent Global Pooling Systems Co. LLC of Orlando; and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LLC of Houston, as examples of greater membership diversity.
``I am optimistic that we can double our membership,'' to about 50 companies in 2008, Hepinstall said.
``It is not unreasonable to think that we can double membership again in 2009,'' he added.