Returnable Packaging Vs. Expendable Packaging

Returnable Packaging

We often get asked about expendable packaging vs returnable packaging, and which one is the most appropriate choice for one’s business needs.

Let’s take a look at the costs and benefits of each, giving a quick breakdown of the merits of returnable packaging vs. expendable packaging.

What Is Returnable Packaging?

Reusable packaging is packaging that is used multiple times.

The Reusable Packaging Association defines returnable packaging as “pallets, bins, tanks, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), reusable plastic containers (RPCs) and other hand-held containers and totes, trays and dunnage that move products efficiently and safely through supply chains”.

Reusable packaging are products that are designed for lasting use in a system that ensures their effective recovery and return for continuous purpose. 

Products that are discarded are often associated with a lower cost, and that is true with packaging.

Read about Returnable Plastic Containers.

What Is Returnable Packaging

What Is Expendable Packaging?

Comparatively, expendable cardboard and wood packaging are less expensive.

Plastic and metal packaging cost more upfront.

If the packaging will be used one or two times it’s very difficult to justify durable returnable packaging, but at some point and some number of uses, the cost justification can be made.

The Benefits Of Returnable Packaging Containers

Durability Of Returnable Packaging Containers

Plastic and metal packaging are made to carry significant weight and stack safely and they are durable materials, whereas cardboard is less durable.

Stackable Packaging

Plastic containers can be stacked 17-20 feet in a containers warehouse, while containers weigh 1,500 lbs.

Metal packaging can often be stacked even higher and with more weight.

Life Cycle Of Returnable Packaging

We often find that the end of the life cycle is not considered when contemplating packaging.

Wood packaging virtually has no value and perhaps even a landfill cost.

Recycling Incentives

Cardboard can be recycled but the cost of gathering and preparing the cardboard will outweigh the rebate. For conversation’s sake, we can say that expendable is worthless at the end of the life cycle.


In the long term, returnable packaging will reduce costs.

Consider bulk plastic containers for packaging, that use HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) that is injection molded.

The most standard container in our industry is plastic container 45 x 48 x 34 and weighs approximately 130 lbs.


Products that can be reused many times and then recycled at the end of their lifecycle are more environmentally friendly, which is the main focus of our company.

On the other hand, products that are used once could have a bad environmental impact.

Read more about the benefits of recyclable packaging.

reusable packaging

Returnable Packaging Makes More Sense

Whenever possible, we prefer handling returnable packaging as it’s the more environmentally sustainable and reusable choice.

In addition, it’s far superior in product protection and has the potential to eliminate supply chain costs associated with durability.

Returnables come with many benefits, including tear-resistance, easily foldable, drillable, and stitchable, fits right where non-returnables have previously been used, and a higher level of resiliency demonstrated against impacts and breakages.

Depending on care and use, some reusable containers can last as many as 100 uses and potentially more! That’s why we advocate for returnable over expendable in most cases.

Returnable Packaging At Green Processing Company

As we reach the conclusion of this year, we are gearing up for an exciting 2019 ahead having recently launched our newly updated website.

This past year, Green Processing Company celebrated its tenth year in business and felt it was time for a fresh look, and more importantly, some useful product information.

Browsing our inventory, you’ll find some of our products (returnable used totes, returnable new totes, returnable used plastic containers, returnable new plastic containers, returnable metal containers, returnable used and new pallets) are listed along with pictures, dimensions, tare weight, and stackability.

For more information about our wide range of packaging solutions, recycling programs, or returnable packaging feel free to contact us by email, phone, or chat box and one of our representatives will be glad to assist you.

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