Reusable Packaging Association Meets in Oslo, Norway

November 6, 2019

“The Reusable Packaging Association held its first Nordic meeting in Oslo, including representatives from several Nordic providers. Besides elk, the Nordic nations are also on the watch for even more opportunities to make the most of reusable packaging.

Smart Retur Norway

Norwegian road sign. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The RPA, since 1999 the leading global non-profit trade organization promoting the use of reusable packaging, made its first official 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 five-person delegation from the US, and apart from being amused by all the Elk warning signs observed roadside around Oslo, Debus 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,” he said.

RPA Smart Retur Oslo

Attending the Managers and Executives meeting in Langhus this October were the following (not listed in sequence): Ragnar Strand and Tom Romanich from NLP; Søren Eriksen and Aris Theophilakis from SmartRetur; Tim Debus from the Reusable Packaging Association RPA; Michael Wasson from Tosca; Ben Stoller from Paxxal Inc.; Kevin Mazula from RM2; Alex Hempel and Norm Kukuk from ORBIS Corporation; Morten Bielefeld from Bruel Systems; Jerker Hartwall and Eero Heinonen from K. Hartwall; Jakob Fellsman from Svenska Retursystem SRS; and Jonne Hellgren from RePack.

“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 a 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 RPCs.

“The advanced operations here at NLP was very impressive,” he added.

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,” he said. “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 PACK EXPO Las Vegas in early September.  NLP’s Tom Romanich made a presentation at the Reusable Packaging Learning Center at the show. Being a big “internationalist” Eriksen 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 operates regards 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,” Eriksen stated. “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.”

Source: Information sourced mainly from Smart Retur (The gratuitous moose reference is my own).”

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