OAKLAND, CA — Use Reusables has helped more than 200 companies in the San Francisco Bay Area adopt reusable boxes and other transportation packaging over the last four years. The program, run by the Oakland-based public agency StopWaste, will soon go nationwide with the help of a $499,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Use Reusables was launched in mid-2007 and offers workshops, events and advice on reusable boxes, pallets and other packaging involved in moving goods around. It has worked with 211 organizations in the Bay Area, but it has wanted to reach a wider audience.
"All along we felt that this is a supply chain project," Justin Lehrer, StopWaste program manager, said. "And with the impacts of supply chains, it doesn't make sense to focus on just one county."
StopWaste's main partner in the Use Reusables campaign is the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA), which has helped it put on local workshops, and will take charge of spreading the workshops across the U.S.
While the RPA will work on touting the benefits of reusables to companies and organizations nationwide, StopWaste will maintain its work with local companies and create case studies, videos, webinars and other tools that highlight the benefits of reusable packaging and that can be shared around the country.
Lehrer said StopWaste will put extra focus on helping companies implement reusable packaging programs, bringing in logistical expertise and providing seed funding to companies looking to switch to reusables.
"We need more than just the one-on-one primer workshop. We need to go in depth on the financial case," Lehrer said. "The big impact will be focused on education and awareness through training opportunities."
A few of the projects StopWaste has worked on include helping Peerless Coffee & Tea use reusable bins for distributing products, Gatorade's switch from wood pallets to plastics ones, and assisting Ghirardelli in packing chocolate squares in plastic bins (pictured above) instead of cardboard boxes. Two recent projects include lightening shipment loads for a grocery chain and cutting down on stretch wrap waste:
- A.G. Ferrari, which operates nine grocery stores in and around San Francisco, is testing how reusable totes perform compared to single-use boxes for moving goods to stores. So far, it's noted that the reusable packaging is helping on the labor side by keeping packages under 50 pounds, even when full of olive oil, putting less strain on workers.
- Veritable Vegetable, a Bay Area produce distributor, is trying out reusable stretch wrap to replace single-use stretch film. It's working with suppliers like nut butter producer Premier Organics. In addition to minimizing waste, the switch is likely to yield economic benefits. "From a volume perspective, it can save them a lot of money to minimize it," Lehrer said.
The three-year grant is part of the EPA Climate Showcase Communities Program, which funds government projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also improve health, create jobs and boost other social conditions. Companies interested in the program can contact StopWaste or sign up to be notified of future workshops.