Muranko Ż, Tassell C, Zeeuw van der Laan A, Aurisicchio M. (2021). “Characterisation and Environmental Value Proposition of Reuse Models for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods: Reusable Packaging and Products.” Sustainability 13(5), 2609. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052609
Problem: Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) are products that are purchased and consumed frequently to satisfy continuous consumer demand. In a linear economy, FMCGs are typically offered as single-use and disposable products. Limitations in product design, insufficient collection systems, and inefficient recovery processes prevent high recycling rates. As a result, FMCGs often end up in landfill or the environment, contributing to waste accumulation, and pollution. Whilst recycling is the most common waste prevention strategy practiced by the industry, the process is limited to addressing only the final stage of the product life cycle, omitting the overproduction and consumption of materials typical of FMCGs. Instead, reuse is a strategy that is capable of extending the value of resources by slowing material flows. Novel reuse models that require the consumer to interact with durable primary packaging and products are emerging in the FMCG industry. However, the constituent elements and operation principles of such reuse models are not fully understood. The aim of this research is to develop a comprehensive characterisation of reuse models and to evaluate their potential to deliver environmental value.
Method: Ninety-two reuse offerings were selected and analysed to identify their reuse system elements. The analysis led to the identification of a framework including five reuse models, which were also evaluated to establish their capability to deliver environmental value when compared to conventional single-use and disposable FMCGs.
Results: Currently in the FMCG sector, reusable products are mostly durable packaging, such as bottles and containers for beverages, foods, personal and home care goods, and are infrequently durable products, such as personal and baby care goods, including razors and nappies. Three reuse models involve exclusive reuse, a behaviour by which a reusable product is used and kept by a single user throughout the product lifetime. In exclusive reuse models, users are provided with either a reusable product (model 1), a reusable product with preparation for reuse infrastructure (model 2), or access to preparation for reuse infrastructure (model 3). Two reuse models involve sequential reuse, a behaviour by which a reusable product is used by multiple users throughout the product lifetime and returned after each use to a provider. In sequential reuse models, users are provided with either a reusable product with preparation for reuse infrastructure and provider-operated recovery services (model 4), or a reusable product and provider-operated services for recovery and preparation for reuse (model 5). Whilst the five reuse models can operate standalone, some offerings were found to embed a multi-model approach. Both exclusive and sequential reuse models are capable of delivering environmental value by reducing the use of natural resources and retaining their value in the economy. In particular, sequential reuse models were found to have a greater capability to increase the share of recyclable resources by offering access to infrastructure for the closure of material loops.
Conclusions: Consumers can currently access five reuse models and choose between exclusive and sequential reuse behaviours. When adopted in conjunction with recycling, reuse models can enable a more efficient consumption of FMCGs. Providing the infrastructure necessary to enable reuse and recycling is key to the successful and sustainable deployment of the reuse models.