Reusable water bottles are everywhere these days, but those are personal items that are purchased and reused by one person (or one family).
While there are individual attempts to promote reusable packaging, such as East Coast grocery store chain Giant Food's collaboration with Loop, getting to a large-scale adoption of reusable packaging will take a lot more collaboration throughout the supply chain than exists currently in most regions, although recent studies say it's possible and can save money while reducing the carbon footprint of packaging.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation says its research shows a complete rethinking of packaging — what it terms a "system change" — could lead to about 40 percent of packaging as reusable, with a 95 percent return rate. That would allow one package to be reused around 15 times, our sister paper Sustainable Plastics writes. At the same time, total packaging costs could drop as much as 10 percent.
But not everyone agrees that it's feasible at this time.
Earlier this year, consultants with McKinsey & Co. looked at the possibility of reusable packaging in two markets: e-commerce and food takeout. It found that the higher initial costs of reusable packaging would require items to be used at least 20 times to break even.