About: How circular supply chains can improve the life cycle assessments (LCAs) for reusable packaging systems

Re.Company
3 min readMar 11, 2023

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At Re Company, we create and manage supply chains for reusable packaging containers, as well as other physical products such as rental and return kiosks. It’s important that we understand the effect that our choices have on our life cycle assessment reports (LCAs), so we wanted to share our findings, and explain why a circular supply chain is key to any reuse system’s overall impact on the environment.

First, what do we mean by a “circular supply chain”? In a traditional linear supply chain, materials are extracted, processed, used to make products, and then disposed of as waste in a landfill or directly into the natural environment. In contrast, a circular supply chain focuses on keeping materials in use for as long as possible, by designing products for durability and long lifespans, and by recycling and repurposing materials at the end of their useful life. This approach can have significant benefits for the environment, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced waste, and conservation of natural resources.

We wanted to understand more about how circular supply chains can improve the LCAs for reusable packaging systems. And here is what we found:

  1. A key component of a circular supply chain is the use of durable, reusable materials. Unlike traditional single-use packaging, which is designed to be used once and then disposed of, reusable packaging is designed to be used dozens if not hundreds times before being recycled or repurposed. This reduces the overall amount of materials needed. For instance, one million single use containers would be needed to serve the same amount of people as a few thousand reusable containers.
  2. In addition, circular supply chains incorporate closed-loop material recycling systems, where materials are collected and reprocessed back into their original supply chain at the end of their useful life, instead of being sent to a landfill or incinerator. This point is why there are so many opportunities for circular supply chains to be created for reusable packaging. Packaging is used within a system in which they will be reclaimed 90%+ of the time, and as suppliers we know which distribution location packaging is being aggregated for sanitation. An essential component of circularity is knowing where materials are. By designing product stewardship, we can ensure a high percentage of end of life material is transported back to our reprocessing facilities.
  3. Using recycled materials in the production of new packaging is another great way to create a more circular supply chain. The overall carbon footprint of the packaging containers themselves is reduced because the energy and resources needed to extract, process, and transport new materials are reduced. Switching from virgin to recycled polypropylene reduced GHG emissions by 3x and furthers reuse’s goal of producing less plastic. We work with Plastic Bank to make sure that at least 80% of our products are made from recycled material. Plastic Bank’s ‘blockchain secured platform enables traceable collection, secures income and verifies reporting from the initial plastic collection in their communities through to the products manufactured with Social Plastic feedstock.’ Check out their global impact here.

Our larger vision is a reengineering of linear, take-make-waste methods of material use in packaging systems. By establishing cradle to cradle loops, healthy materials are reused in cycles to make a positive overall footprint and more recycled plastic is landing back in recycled plastic.

We can help your organization adopt a circular approach to packaging. Get in touch with us: brooke@re.company / www.re.company

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Re.Company

re-use supply chain management for closed loop systems / hard- and software for a user friendly transition to reusable packaging.