Reusable plastic & Reuse models

5 Mar, 2024

As we confront the escalating issue of plastic waste, embracing reusable plastics emerges as a vital approach for fostering environmental sustainability. This article delves into cutting-edge reuse models that are revolutionizing our consumption habits, spotlighting consumer-focused reusable plastics and packaging as frontrunners in our quest for a more sustainable future. It’s based on various sources and for the different reuse models we’ve looked at the Reusable packaging business models from the Ellen Macarthur foundation. Through an examination of these models, we uncover the transformative potential of reusable plastics in reducing waste and steering society towards eco-friendly practices.

Reusable Plastic in Packaging


The global shift towards sustainability has spotlighted reusable packaging as a key solution to plastic waste. Despite recycling efforts, a small fraction of plastic is actually recycled, with most ending up in landfills or incinerated. The circular economy model, advocating for the reuse of packaging, aims to reduce waste at its source and lessen the demand for new materials. Moving away disposable packaging and seeing it more as part of the product. However, the success of reusable packaging relies on consumer adoption and the environmental benefits are subject to scrutiny. Challenges notwithstanding, the move towards reusable options is growing, with innovations aiming to make sustainabilty a convenient choice for consumers.

Which plastics?

The most common types of plastic used for reusable packaging include Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), and Polypropylene (PP). PET is favored for its clarity and strength, making it suitable for bottles and containers. HDPE is known for its stiffness and chemical resistance, ideal for sturdy containers. PP, characterized by its high melting point, is used for containers that can withstand microwave and dishwasher use. These plastics are chosen for their durability, safety, and ability to be cleaned and reused multiple times.

The Four Reuse Models

Reusable packaging business models. Source: Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

The adoption of reusable plastics in recent years has been shaped by four innovative models: Refill at Home, Refill on the Go, Return from Home, and Return on the Go. These models provide diverse strategies to reduce waste, each with its unique application in various everyday scenarios, thereby showcasing the practicality and versatility of reusable packaging in our daily lives.

Refill at Home

This model promotes the use of reusable packaging in everyday household products, offering a sustainable alternative to single-use containers. Companies like Replenish and SodaStream are at the forefront of this approach. Replenish, for instance, provides a reusable spray bottle system that utilizes concentrated liquid refills, thereby reducing the amount of plastic waste generated from conventional cleaning products. SodaStream offers a home carbonation system that allows consumers to create carbonated beverages in reusable bottles, thus eliminating the need for single-use plastic bottles.

Refill on the Go

The ‘Refill on the Go’ initiative by Albert Heijn enables customers to use reusable containers for groceries, thereby significantly reducing the use of plastic in food and retail packaging. This initiative contributes to a reduction in both packaging waste and food waste, aligning with a broader commitment to sustainability and the environment.

Return from Home

Liviri’s “Return from Home” model introduces innovative reusable shipping boxes designed for meal kits and perishable goods. This dual-model approach allows companies to either manage logistics internally or implement a customer return system. Such initiatives extend the product’s lifecycle and reinforce the importance of end-of-life management in the packaging and supply chain sectors.

Return on the Go

KFC’s introduction of SmartBins in collaboration with PackBack exemplifies the “Return on the Go” model in a commercial setting. By implementing a deposit system on reusable cups, they encourage customers to return and reuse, effectively reducing the reliance on single-use plastic cups.

The Environmental Impact of Reusable Plastic

Reusable plastics significantly reduce waste and engage consumers in sustainable practices. In the case of The Zero Waste Scotland campaign highlights the environmental benefits, showing how reusable items, such as coffee cups, bags, and food containers, can dramatically reduce the impact compared to their single-use counterparts.

The Zero Waste Scotland campaign highlights the environmental advantages of reusable plastics, demonstrating break-even points and CO2 savings. For instance, reusable coffee cups need 10-41 uses to match the CO2 impact of disposables, potentially saving 10.3 kg CO2e over their lifespan. Reusable bags break even after four uses, reducing environmental impact with 56-67% less CO2 over ten uses. Reusable food containers require as few as four uses to surpass the CO2 impact of single-use alternatives. The campaign emphasizes the need for a sustainable shift in consumer choices.

Challenges and Future Potential

The journey towards widespread adoption of reusable plastics is not without challenges. Changing consumer habits, adapting supply chains, and raising public awareness are critical hurdles that must be overcome. Addressing these challenges presents opportunities for innovation, sustainability, and education, ensuring the long-term success of reusable plastic initiatives.

Single-use vs reusable Source: Zero Waste Europa


In conclusion, the transition to reusable plastics is integral for the future, signaling a pivotal shift towards a more sustainable way of living. Embracing the four reuse models has significantly reduced reliance on single-use plastics, demonstrating their practicality across various settings, among others. While challenges persist, the potential benefits are substantial, including a notable reduction in plastic waste and carbon footprint. The growing acceptance of reusable plastics harbors hope for a future where their use becomes a standard for sustainable living, emphasizing a shared responsibility among businesses, consumers, and communities to forge a healthier planet. Each choice, product design, and habit change, there are a number of ways through which we can contribute to a more sustainable world, mitigating the impact of our daily actions on the environment.


At Better Future Factory, our commitment to sustainability shines through in every project, especially in our 2020 collaboration with HUM Nutrition. We played a crucial role in revolutionizing their packaging to be 100% recyclable through the introduction of a refill package. This initiative not only highlighted our dedication to environmental stewardship but also helped HUM maintain its high-quality look without sacrificing sustainability. We’re proud of this significant advancement and invite everyone to celebrate these achievements with us as we persist in pushing for a more sustainable, cleaner world and setting new industry standards for eco-friendly solutions.