Taking a broader perspective: Reusable Transport Packaging in the circular economy

In the pursuit of sustainable solutions, the concept of Reusable Transport Packaging (RTP) emerges as a pivotal component within the framework of the circular economy. RTP represents a departure from traditional single-use packaging practices, offering a more environmentally conscious approach to transporting goods. But Reusable Transport Packaging is also embedded in a broader perspective system where it contributes to achieving sustainability and circularity objectives.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the idea of a circular economy and how Reusable Transport Packaging fits into it, tackling key factors to ensure transport packaging is sustainable and climate friendly.

If you wish to have additional insights on RPE’s ambitions and priorities for the coming EU policy mandate, have a look at our manifesto!

1. The circular economy context

The concept of the circular economy represents a fundamental shift in the way we approach resource management and economic activity. It revolves around the idea of eliminating waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible, and regenerating natural systems.

In the context of Reusable Transport Packaging, the circular economy framework emphasises the importance of creating packaging solutions that can be used repeatedly, thereby reducing the need for single-use packaging and minimising waste generation. By employing Reusable Transport Packaging, businesses can not only decrease their environmental footprint but also realise cost savings and operational efficiencies.

Shifting from linear to circular models in resource utilisation is imperative for sustainable development and long-term prosperity. Linear models, which follow a ‘take-make-dispose’ pattern, are inherently unsustainable, leading to resource depletion, environmental degradation, and increased waste generation.

Embracing circularity ensures that resources are used more efficiently, promotes innovation in product design and materials, and fosters a more resilient and resourceful economy for the benefit of both present and future generations.

2. The role of Reusable Transport Packaging in circular supply chains

Reusable Transport Packaging plays a crucial role in enabling circular supply chains by enhancing sustainability, reducing waste, and promoting efficiency throughout the supply chain. Here’s how it contributes:

  • Resource efficiency: Reusable packaging reduces the demand for single-use materials like paper, cardboard, and plastic, conserving resources and decreasing waste generation.
  • Waste reduction: It minimises waste by providing durable alternatives to traditional single-use packaging, which often ends up in landfills or as litter.
  • Carbon footprint reduction: By enabling fewer shipments and reduced emissions, reusable packaging contributes to lowering the environmental impact compared to single-use packaging.
  • Cost savings: While initial investments might be required, reusable packaging leads to long-term cost savings for businesses by amortising costs over its extended lifespan.

3. Critical enablers to make transport packaging in a sustainable and climate-neutral way

While Reusable Transport Packaging presents clear benefits for promoting circularity within supply chains, it is crucial to approach its production and use with sustainability in mind. This means considering factors such as material sourcing, manufacturing processes, energy consumption, and end-of-life management to ensure that its environmental impact is minimised throughout its lifecycle.

A. Implementation of the EU’s waste hierarchy and establishing a clear baseline for reusability

The EU’s waste hierarchy implementation and the establishment of clear reusability standards are critical for transforming waste management strategies. Circular economy policies stress the importance of universally recognising and applying the waste hierarchy, with an emphasis on prioritising reuse as a primary method of waste management after waste prevention.

It is essential to ensure equitable treatment of all packaging options, with a specific focus on evaluating reuse based on measurable performance metrics, such as requiring a minimum of 10 rotations. The widespread adoption of Reusable Transport Packaging (RTP) throughout supply chains is crucial for phasing out single-use packaging, reducing plastic pollution in oceans, mitigating municipal and marine waste, and improving product protection during transit.

B. Protection of the ownership of Reusable Transport Packaging assets in closed pooling systems at both national and EU level 

Protecting ownership rights of Reusable Transport Packaging assets within closed pooling systems, as indicated in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), is vital for promoting sustainable solutions and improving supply chain efficiency.

By ensuring accountability and traceability, it incentivises investments in high-quality reusable packaging, fosters collaboration among stakeholders, and facilitates effective asset management through advanced tracking technologies. Overall, it supports the transition towards a circular economy by maximising the lifespan and value of reusable packaging materials.

C. Affordability and availability of green energy 

It is essential to prioritise affordable and eco-friendly energy sources for manufacturing, washing, and repairing Reusable Transport Packaging. Policymakers should focus on ensuring ample supply of climate-neutral energy carriers, integrating energy markets, revising energy taxation, and supporting research and investment in emerging technologies.

D. Decarbonisation of the transport sector 

Decarbonising the transport sector is pivotal for reducing the carbon footprint of the Reusable Transport Packaging industry. By incentivising the adoption of low-emission vehicles and ensuring accessible charging infrastructure, policymakers can facilitate the transition towards sustainable transportation.

Additionally, promoting the use of renewable energy sources in transportation further contributes to environmental sustainability goals, fostering a cleaner and more efficient transport ecosystem.

E. Investing in chemical recycling

Investing in chemical recycling is important for the Reusable Transport Packaging sector as it facilitates a departure from fossil fuel-based materials, crucial for sustainability. This transition not only aligns with environmental goals but also promotes a circular economy model, emphasising the reuse and recycling of materials to minimise waste.

Through the adoption of chemical recycling technologies, companies within the sector can significantly diminish plastic waste, thereby mitigating the environmental impact associated with traditional disposal methods.


In conclusion, the adoption of Reusable Transport Packaging (RTP) represents a transformative step towards sustainability within the circular economy. RTP offers a practical solution to the challenges of resource management and waste reduction, presenting opportunities for businesses to enhance efficiency while minimising environmental impact.

To fully maximise the potential of RTP, it is imperative to prioritise several critical enablers. Clear standards for reusability, aligned with the EU’s waste hierarchy, provide a foundation for transforming waste management practices. Protecting ownership rights within closed pooling systems ensures accountability and incentivises investment in high-quality reusable packaging, driving the transition towards circular supply chains.

Moreover, ensuring affordable access to green energy sources and decarbonising the transportation sector are essential for reducing the environmental footprint of RTP production and usage. By investing in chemical recycling technologies, we can further minimise waste and promote resource efficiency within the RTP sector. In essence, by addressing these enablers, stakeholders can pave the way for a more sustainable future.