Carbon footprint of reusable packaging

Reusable packaging has 80% smaller carbon footprint than single-use cardboard box or plastic bag

When RePack was just an idea in our heads, one of the first things we did was to evaluate if return and reuse was more environmentally friendly than single-use packaging.

First measure was an obvious one. Trash. When RePack is returned it reduces the need of using single-use packaging.

Carbon footprint is another and much more complicated one too.

To evaluate the CO2 impact of reusable packaging we calculated the carbon footprints of cardboard packaging, plastic bags and compared those to reusable packaging.

This was back in 2011 or 2012 (time flies!) and initial results were very encouraging.

“Letter returns is 37 gCO2,

and plastic bag is about 300 gCO2”

Our discovery was that simple reuse indeed reduces CO2 emissions compared to single use packaging.

Well, we would not still be working on RePack all these years later if those results had not been in our favour!

We have recently updated our Carbon Footprint study and results are in. And it's good stuff.

Up to 80% reduction in CO2 with reusable packaging

Reusable RePack packaging reduces CO2 emissions by up to 80% when compared to single-use plastic bags and cardboard boxes.

Why is that? Mainly because RePack's are returned to reuse efficiently via post, as a letter.

When an empty RePack is folded and returned as a letter in Europe, it has a carbon footprint of about 37 grams of CO2.

On average making a plastic bag has a carbon footprint of 200-400 grams of CO2 and a cardboard box has a carbon footprint of 100 grams and above.

Compare the return to reuse method to a waste treatment and manufacturing of 20 new single-use packages and we have significant savings in CO2. In fact if RePack is reused only once, it has a smaller carbon footprint than two single-use cardboard boxes or plastic bags.

RePack is made from recycled materials

Manufacturing a new RePack has bigger CO2 footprint than cardboard or poly bags, this is because RePack’s are made from  recycled polypropylene.

Polypropylene? It is the same as in the blue Ikea bags. We use PP because it’s durable, lightweight and 100% recyclable. And RePack needs to be durable, it is reusable after all.

In the long-term our aim is to further reduce RePack's environmental impact by moving to renewable materials and localised returns handling.

Download the study

If you want to read more about the study, its scope and emission factors used you can download it here.

RePack’s carbon footprint study has been conducted internally. Before starting RePack one of the co-founders, Jonne Hellgren, had a sustainability consultancy focused on carbon footprinting, LCA analysis and sustainability strategies.

Jonne’s company was behind the most popular online carbon footprint calculator in Finland in, Finland’s biggest newspaper and had completed hundreds of CO2 calculations for cities, regions, companies and products.

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