The Reusable Packaging Association with their first Nordic meeting in Oslo

June 23, 2020

The RPA, since 1999 the leading global non-profit trade organization promoting the use of reusable packaging, was on their first visit to the Nordics in October. The RPA executive team met with Nordic representatives from the reusable packaging industry, both producers and service providers, at the NLP facilities at Langhus just outside of Oslo. On the agenda were issues like global trends and competitive forces as well as discussions on best practices and how to further promote the understanding of reusable assets in many forms and shapes across all markets. Both technological and political changes are driving the interest in reuse as the preferred activity in the circular economy and the meeting participants were generally very upbeat about the prospects of the industry.

RPA President Tim Debus led the 5 people delegation from the US, and apart from being amused by all the Elk warning signs observed roadside around Oslo, he was enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with his industry colleagues from Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. – – We’ve been working to advance reusable packaging systems for decades and there’s never been a better time to capitalize on the opportunities and generate new values from reuse. The critical needs to address climate change among other environmental problems through economically viable solutions have made consumers, retailers, transporters, politicians alike aware of the benefits of reusing the packaging assets. At the same time there’s lot of confusion of what actually constitutes for the most environmentally friendly solutions when everybody seems to be branding and promoting green arrows these days. So it was very inspiring to see how both the Swedish and Norwegian grocery retailers through SRS and NLP respectively have pooled most of their reusables, in this case by using traceable RPC’s (Reusable Plastic Container). The advanced operations here at NLP was very impressive, Mr Debus said.

Hosting the event was Norsk Lastbærer Pool and SmartRetur, the leader in Reverse Logistics in Norway. NLP CEO Ragnar Strand was both pleased and inspired by the RPA meeting, and their choice of venue.

– It is no secret that the Nordics have led the way in the management of closed cycles of Returnable Transport Items (RTIs) in food retailing to the huge benefit for the environment. The way we and Svenska Retursystem (SRS) in Sweden, and now with SmartRetur with EUR pallets, have increased efficiency, accountability and profitability for our customers is equally important because unless there is a competitive advantage in doing this, it’s going to be hard to get more customers and retailers on board.

CEO Søren Eriksen of SmartRetur was partly responsible for inviting RPA to Norway after a visit to the Expo Pack Trade fair in Nevada in early September. Being a big “internationalist” he was very excited about the meeting, and having open discussions on related topics like e-commerce and Last Mile Delivery in the circular economy. Another topic he finds important and one that creates a lot of confusion in the Scandinavian markets where SmartRetur operate, is how to communicate the distinction between reuse and recycle.

– As pressure grows for businesses to clean up their act, we have more and more tools available to actually help them. We are all in this together somehow and if reusables are to have a big impact, more players have to come to the table – just like we did.

Attending the Managers and Executives meeting in Langhus end of October: From NLP: Ragnar Strand and Tom Romanich, from SmartRetur: Søren Eriksen and Aris Theophilakis, from the Reusable Packaging Association RPA: Tim Debus, from Tosca: Michael Wasson, from Paxxal Inc. : Ben Stoller, from RM2: Kevin Matzula, from ORBIS Corporation: Alex Hempel and Norm Kukuk, from Bruel Systems: Morten Bielefeld, from K. Hartwall: Jerker Hartwall and Eero Heinonen, from Svenska Retursystem SRS: Jakob Fellsman, and from RePack: Jonne Hellgren