Beads spell out 'Reuse'

Reuse In Action

Trayak continually invests in client requested functionalities making EcoImpact-COMPASS one of the most widely used and leading software in the industry. Nearly one year ago Trayak collaborated with Tosca, a global leader in reusable plastic containers and pallet pooling, to help advance LCA for reusable packaging scenarios. What materialized were several practical and innovative reuse features within EcoImpact-COMPASS, deep insights that Tosca has leveraged for their sustainability journey, and a joint webinar to share the outcomes from a supplier perspective. 

Considerations for Reuse

Many of the advancements that keep EcoImpact-COMPASS on the cutting edge originate from meeting evolving client needs. Trayak’s clients had been increasingly asking about the sustainability of reusable packaging. In the past, reuse was seen as a 1 to 1 replacement and viewed in a very favorable light. But in practice, reuse strategies are complicated to implement and may involve more intensive materials or processes, reverse logistics, washing cycles, reconfiguring supply chains, and more.  As Trayak worked to develop new reuse features to better represent this unique sustainability strategy, the key parameters most affecting impact needed to be clearly defined. The first key parameter was the use rate. The amount of times a component can be used is often correlated to its weight. To increase usability and lifespan, heavier or more robust materials are often used. If a reusable component is much heavier than single use, its real world use rate should be sufficient to make up for the changes and reduce overall impact. Use rate is usually defined by the manufacturer based on the durability and expected lifespan of the reusable package. In addition, the return rate can be considered. Return rate is determined based on the average likelihood that the package is returned, as well as expected breakage or loss. In practice, the return rate will never be 100% and is used to calculate the effective, or real world, use rate. Transportation or reverse logistics are also important. Transportation impacts can quickly add up when considering the need to collect packages after use, return them to be washed or refilled, and sent back to the consumer. A washing cycle or sanitation process is also sometimes required. Washing cycles often consume water, detergent, heat and electricity, and other chemicals to adequately clean the package.

Why Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

Tosca specializes in solutions that can replace single use corrugated shippers and wooden pallets in the retail fresh food and CPG industries. Searching for a way to incorporate sustainability metrics into their business case, a natural opportunity formed to collaborate with Trayak. Within a pooling model like Tosca’s, assets are optimized to be used as many times as possible within multiple supply chains, spreading the initial environmental burden and cost of a single asset over the course of its lifespan. LCA offers a recognized and data-driven method to calculate environmental impacts in accordance with international standards such as ISO 14040 and 14044.  All sustainability strategies have important tradeoffs worth careful consideration. Because of the nature of reusable packaging, they are commonly heavier or use resource intensive materials to increase durability. This typically results in a high environmental impact for one use, which then slowly levels out through multiple uses. An LCA can help to determine the particular breakeven point where the benefits outweigh added impacts from an increased lifespan, so that reusable packaging is a better choice than single use. In such cases, it is important to ensure that the breakeven point can actually be met by the average consumer, resulting in less impact and not more. 

Leveraging a Data-Driven Approach

In addition to helping make reusable packaging scenarios accessible within EcoImpact-COMPASS, Tosca also leveraged LCA in their own sustainability journey. Why do they utilize LCA? They define it as the “strategic value of information”. Life Cycle Assessment enables them to understand the impact of every packaging component and provides the data to guide important decisions. Taking a holistic and comprehensive view of environmental impact is especially crucial for reusable scenarios where the transportation and use phases can be significant. By incorporating all aspects of the life cycle from cradle-to-grave, Tosca knows that reusable systems don’t always reduce environmental impact when compared to single use. This only creates more opportunity to understand areas for improvement and prioritize investments in R&D.  It is also imperative to use reliable and high quality data while performing LCA, as the inputs can affect the results considerably. Tosca emphasizes that they conduct LCAs with a holistic approach considering transportation distances, washing cycles, breakage/loss, and reverse logistics. Trayak continues to learn from our clients and develop functionality to increase the complexity and the level of customization of each LCA. We are excited to continue evolving with the field of sustainability as it advances. Trayak has been helping leading brands of all sizes make data-driven sustainability decisions for over 10 years. If you would like to learn more about our tools and services please contact us.

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