expendable 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 vs expendable.

Returnable Packaging

The definition of returnable is (something) capable of being returned or brought back, whereas expendable means (something that is) able to be abandoned. Products that are discarded are often associated with a lower cost, and that is true with 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

Plastic and metal packaging are made to carry significant weight and stack safely, whereas cardboard is less durable. Plastic packaging can be stacked 17-20 feet in a warehouse, with 1,500 lbs. in each container. Metal packaging can often be stacked even higher and with more weight.

We often find that the end of the lifecycle is not considered when contemplating packaging. Wood packaging virtually has no value and perhaps even a landfill cost. 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 lifecycle.

Consider plastic bulk packaging made using 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. Currently with scrap HDPE trading at $.20/lb these containers are worth (at least) $26.00 each! So that value can be removed from the purchase or considered a deposit, whereas the user can return the plastic containers for a $26.00 rebate at any time.

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.

Read more about the benefits of recyclable packaging.

Returnable Packaging Makes More Sense

returnable packagingWhenever 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

Browsing our inventory, you’ll find some of our products (used totes, new totes, used plastic containers, New Plastic Containers, metal containers, used and new pallets) are listed along with pictures, dimensions, tare weight, and stackability. The fresh, new website is a great reference tool for your product and packaging forecasting.

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