Clinton, this is the comments board. For off-list communication about a possible story, you can find my email address on our website at Contact Us/Editorial & Production Directory:
I didn't see a way to email you other than choosing the "reply" button. However, this screen looks remarkably similar to the posting screen. We'll see if this goes to only you or if it ends up out on the message board.
I would be more than happy to speak with you. After we establish that this is a method that goes directly to you, I can send my phone number.
I am the Senior Designer of Plastic Products for Schaefer Systems International. One of our largest divisions is Returnable Packaging Solutions, which sells Close-Loop returnable solutions. Mostly plastic, our products replace disposable, easily damaged products (i.e. wooden pallets, paper corrugated boxes). These systems include plastic pallets and top caps with matching, multiple sized injection molded totes.
A primary user of such systems in the U.S. is the automotive industry. Their first tier suppliers are required to deliver their components to the assembly plants in approved packaging. This usually consists of: a plastic tote, reusable dunnage (packaging within the tote, i.e. the cardboard partition set inside wine cases) and labeling with tracking and routing information.
These filled totes actually travel to the workstations within the assembly plant. The totes are emptied one part at a time as each component is installed in a car or sub-assembly. The palletized empty totes are returned to the supplier to be restocked and reused. This makes up a closed loop.
These packaging systems are bought en masse at the beginning of a car program and, barring forklift interactions, last the lifetime of the car model. At the end of the program, all of the boxes/pallets/top caps can be ground up and recycled to make new product.
As in your bio-plastic example, plastic returnable systems are usually more cost effective than disposable systems. The upfront costs are higher, however, and saving money short-term sometimes gets in the way of real savings.
If you'd like more information, please ask. I tried to keep this answer short. :)
Could you clarify your statement, "I haven't seen plastic return packages, either, so I don't think they're very common yet."?
The reason that I ask is that the company I work for designs and manufactures injection molded returnable systems. But before I describe them in more detail, I wanted to make sure that it is those systems that you meant and not something else.
Thanks, Chuck. I was surprised to hear that ship-back cartons were still made of cardboard. Details about cardboard type weren't available, but I'd guess that it must have not been the corrugated variety.
Yes, it probably is a groundbreaker, which fits with your coverage. Environmental advances seem to be all over the place these days. And more and more, the green avenue doesn't seem to be a cost-added road. That's good news.
Thanks for the input, Rob. Good to know that reverse logistics has been integrated into supply chain management, which makes sense. I haven't seen plastic return packages, either, so I don't think they're very common yet. Another reason this looked like a groundbreaker.
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In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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