Benefits of reusable IBCs
More companies are looking for increased resource efficiency, as part of a transition to a circular economy. Companies are more interested in finding new ways to improve the sustainability of their supply chain. Where some will affirm that the circular economy is about “closing the loops”, it has been defined by Ellen MacArthur Foundation as a lot more than closing the loop.
Although economics and safety parameters are always important, we see a growing importance for environmental benefits. Below are listed some advantages that might result from applying a “reuse” strategy to IBC packaging in the daily operations of an enterprise. Procurement of packaging “designed for reuse” packaging will help amplify the below benefits.
Safety benefits of reusable IBCs
- Less product damage occurs during transport
- The leakproof ball valve is equipped compared to the butterfly valve, that leads to peace of mind
- All plastic design maintains a high level of hygiene in industries where it is required e.g. food & beverage, pharmaceutical
- Heavy-duty pallet, standardized ISO footprint allow easy and safe stacking, which meets ADR regulations
- Providing packaging owner with long-lasting services. The brand keeping ownership of the IBC packaging has in interest to procure packaging as resistant and durable as possible
- It has been seen that end-users associate reusable packaging with the sustainability image of a brand.
- The outer container and cover plus the pallet become recyclable material after 10 years of intensive usage. It results in less waste to manage for recycling or disposal
- The inner container and all spare parts will become residual waste after usage
- Compared to standard IBC which has a shorter lifetime, the VARIBOX has to be recycled only once. It saves labour, time and reduce cost related to preparing waste for recycling, recycling itself and disposing.
Environmental benefits of reusable IBCs
“Reuse” is an effective strategy of circular economy and it supports a company’s sustainability objective. It has been recognized by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that: “reusable packaging is a critical part of the solution to eliminate plastic pollution”. Some of the environmental advantages provided with reusable Intermediate Bulk Container are listed below:
- Prevents pollution caused, by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials and energy
- Material efficiency, because less packaging units are required to realise the same number of trips between a distributor and its end-user
- Reduces material used for your packaging purposes
- Allows packaging to be used to their fullest extent
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change, according to the United States’ environmental protection agency
- Reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators
Financial benefits of reusable IBCs
Reusing packaging for Business to Business (B2B) activities can result in significative long-term cost savings. When looking at reusable packaging and the economics related, it is important to be aware of the following points. Where a single-use packaging is sold once and a “standard IBC” is sold/used limited times, the reusable IBC e.g. VARIBOX is sold/used an unlimited number of times, for a defined period. It is considered an asset for the company that retains ownership of it and allows this company to realise more revenue per IBC than any other solution. Why selling transport packaging once when you can use it countless times to generate revenue ?
The number of trips is an important aspect to look at as well. A reusable IBC is designed to keep in the same condition, no matter how many times it has been used. There is a clear incentive to increase the number of trips done per reusable IBC, as there is no trips limitation on a defined period. This is one of the different options possible to obtain product efficiency and generate a better Return On Investment. In comparison, a Standard IBC that has limited-uses, the more you use it, the more it will degrade and have chances of failures. There is no incentive to increase your performances in terms of trips as the standard IBC will have to be replaced faster.
A prominent aspect of reusables is its value, linked to the performances it can accomplish while lasting up to the limit. In the case of IBCs for hazardous chemicals, the limit of time it can last is set by UN/ADR regulation:
- The inner container should be inspected visually, and pressure tested every 2.5 years
- The Inner container should be changed after up to 5* years and should be pressure tested
The value of such IBC comes from the fact it lasts up to 5 years and its conditions do not degrade over time or trips.
*For Hydrofluoric acid and Nitric acid with a concentration superior to 55%, ADR regulation requires the inner container to be changed after 2 years.
In the below bullet points, we explain briefly some of the reasons’ why reusable IBCs are valuable for chemical distributors:
- Cost per trip: reusable IBCs have a longer useful life, it results in lower packaging cost per trips
- Packaging total value of ownership reduction: the costs of reusable IBC can be spread over many years. The long-lasting reusable IBC has a lower cost per trip than the standard IBC alternative. With a decrease of ongoing replacement, repair and related freight expenses associated with a standard IBC, the reusable IBC pays for itself after a couple of trips
- IBC fleet management savings: because a company might need less packaging units to transport the same quantity of chemicals, the fleet is smaller, and costs related to fleet management are reduced
- An incentive to increase the number of trips per IBC is created as the reusable IBC does not degrade over time or number of trips. A company that increases the number of trips per IBC is generating more revenue per unit cost. Bearing in mind that the cost of acquisition of a standard or reusable IBC is fixed, there is an incentive to increase the number of trips to decrease the cost per trip, as soon as the latest is not higher than the cost of acquisition.
Reusable IBC packaging and circular economy :
Reusing your IBC preserves more of its embedded value than recycling it, which is generally costlier and a more energy-intensive process. This refers to the “power of the inner circle”, the activity of reusing a product or packaging is often preferred, from a Circular Economy point of view.
Compared to focusing on recycling, a reusable packaging strategy can be a more efficient alternative in reducing the impact of resource and energy used while preventing greenhouse emissions.
Moreover, the longer your IBC can be reused, the lesser you will need IBCs to realise the same number of use cycles. Overall, the costs and emissions are reduced by reusing packaging, in addition to, providing owner and end-users with additional qualitative advantages.
Around the world, the interest in tackling challenges of reducing material use and packaging waste, through the development of a reusable packaging system is growing.
Benefits of reusables depend on key aspects such as transport distance (especially for reverse logistics), the regularity of deliveries, standardization, return rates, the impact of sorting, cleaning and maintenance, impacts on product damage. If well managed, it translates in cost savings e.g. a study showed that a reusable container for transporting goods within the international supply chain is economically beneficial.