Sustainable operations in reusable food packaging networks

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This chapter explores the processes of a typical logistics network for the management of reusable packaging for food products. While the impacts associated with packaging waste in the food sector are well known, the adoption of reusable crates or handling systems for food items entails many logistics processes such as storage, transportation, and cleaning, whose impact needs to be quantified and assessed with cost-benefit analysis. This chapter thus presents a methodology and a decision-support tool used to quantify the logistic and environmental impacts associated with packaging distribution in the closed-loop network between growers, retailers, and the pooler.

This methodology allows quantifying of the performance of the as-is scenario and predicting the savings of choosing intermodal transport solutions (i.e., railways, seaways) for the delivery and collection of reusable plastic crates (RPCs) for fruits and vegetables. The methodology is applied to a multiscenario what-if analysis of a case study provided by an Italian pooler operating in the retail food supply chain. The results are generated through a decision-support tool, which embeds a geographic information system (GIS) and realizes data-driven assessment of storage and distribution operations experienced by RPCs.

We quantified some categories of impacts among the set of greenhouse gases emissions (GHGs) resulting from transportation and associated costs. The results showcase a total transportation cost reduction of 11.7% in the to-be scenario, while the number of kilograms of CO2eq decreases by 9.2%.

The contribution of this chapter lies in the investigation of the environmental sustainability of a packaging closed-loop network (CLN) for food products. Moreover, we decided to limit the boundaries of the analysis to the transport process, which is often neglected and underrated in typical life cycle assessment (LCA). Findings from this chapter represent practical suggestions and strategic guidelines for managers and practitioners of reusable package systems toward more sustainable operations.


External organisations
  • University of Bologna
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Transport Systems and Logistics
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainable Food Supply Chains
Subtitle of host publicationPlanning, Design, and Control through Interdisciplinary Methodologies
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages304
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-813411-5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jun 12
Publication categoryResearch