Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has conducted a study to validate that reusable packaging can be used as an economically viable alternative to single-use packaging. 

The study is titled ‘The economics of reuse systems – a study into what makes a financially viable reusable packaging system‘ and has been carried out in collaboration with the Netherlands-based impact-driven company Searious Business.

It argues that when certain conditions are met, reusable packaging can actually provide cost benefits to companies and businesses by replacing single-use packaging.

As per the cost-benefit analysis, the study has identified three main performance indicators that can help in developing a financially healthy reuse ecosystem, which comprises packaging return rates, the number of average use cycles, and retention time.

The companies investigated three open-loop packaging categories, including takeaway food containers, secondary transport packaging, and beverage bottles, using Spain, Germany, and Italy as archetype nations.

ZWE said that the study examined this economic viability on the basis of how much return reuse system providers get an investment and the accumulated costs of single-use plastic packaging.

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These parameters were then compared with reusable plastic packaging for a system user.

Searious Business CEO and founder Willemijn Peeters said: “Packaging users often overestimate the risk of switching to reusable packaging.

“This study mathematically proves that reuse is financially viable, and it does not even begin to consider external costs of continuing business as usual.”

For the first packaging category, the study revealed that reusable takeaway food containers are more ‘profitable’ for consumers while the system’s providers can achieve a return on investment between three and four years.

In the case of secondary transport packaging, the investigation compared reusable and single-use plastic bags and found that returns on investment for systems providers can be achieved in two to three years, with similar costs for the consumer.

Results for the last category, beverage containers, said that reusable beverage containers are economically beneficial for users and that system providers can achieve a return on investment in five to six years.

ZWE’s reuse systems manager Nathan Dufour said: “This study is yet another clear demonstration that in a matter of only a few years, well-designed high-performing systems for reuse will help reconcile economics with pressing environmental concerns.”