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Packaging’s Role in Sustainability: Reusable Plastic Containers in the Agricultural-Food Supply Chains

Organizing Supply Chain Processes for Sustainable Innovation in the Agri-Food Industry

ISBN: 978-1-78635-488-4, eISBN: 978-1-78635-487-7

ISSN: 2045-0605

Publication date: 20 August 2016

Abstract

Purpose

This chapter explores the potential economic advantages and disadvantages of reusable plastic containers (RPCs) in the transport of fresh produce from growers to retail stores. The empirical research linking packaging to quantifiable economic and social benefits is reviewed. This study answers the question – what are the economic and social impacts of increased standardization of bulk packaging in the North American fresh produce supply chains? Implications for the potential use of RPCs and its impact on sustainability are explored.

Methodology/approach

The chapter describes data from grocery retailers who have implemented both one-way and reusable plastic containers for fresh produce distribution. A Time-Driven Activity-Based Costing (TD-ABC) analysis was conducted to capture and evaluate process times and product damage associated with the typical deployment of bulk containers in the grocery retailers’ distribution centers (DC), retail stores, and asset recovery centers of the supply chain. Economic measures were implemented and together with the social dimensions provided insights about sustainability-based implications.

Findings

Fresh produce shipments using the RPC technology had significantly less waste and damage representing potential social and economic benefits. The empirical findings included results about the economic impact of RPCs on the sustainability level of a typical supply chain for fresh food products.

Originality/value

The quantification of the economic and potential social sustainability for the explored packaging types constitutes an important contribution. Much of the previous research did not contain comprehensive assessments. The impact of technological change – the introduction and use of RPC in packaging – is examined. In addition, the supply chain scope for this research included most of the major activities that involve the packaging of fresh produce commodities in its practical dynamics.

Keywords

Citation

Singh, J., Shani, A.B.(., Femal, H. and Deif, A. (2016), "Packaging’s Role in Sustainability: Reusable Plastic Containers in the Agricultural-Food Supply Chains", Organizing Supply Chain Processes for Sustainable Innovation in the Agri-Food Industry (Organizing for Sustainable Effectiveness, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 175-204. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2045-060520160000005016

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016 Emerald Group Publishing Limited