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Plastic, Plastic packaging, Reuse, Refill & Return model.

What is it about plastic that fascinates us?

Perhaps, versatile, pliable, durable, cheap to produce, and universal.

Indeed, Plastic is all of that. That's why it takes us only about half of one century to rocket plastic production from 0 to 400 million tonnes. It is also projected that this number will quadruple by 2050.

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According to a recent study from the University of California, plastic packaging accounts for 40% of total global plastic production. Yet, only about 14% of plastic packaging is recycled; of course, this rate varies across the regions. When the Covid 19 pandemic hit us, this rate even dropped lower, for example, 5 - 6% in the US.

So, which is the way for us to deal with the plastic problem in general and plastic packaging in particular?

  • Eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging. Do your products need all three packaging tiers? Maybe No!

  • Promote reuse practice where ever possible through Refill and Return models

  • Aim to 100% reusable, compostable plastic and be reused, composted, and recycled in practice

  • Halve the consumption of plastic from finite resources. Resources of plastic: fossil-based, bio-based, recycled.

  • Hazardous-free plastic for all stakeholders is a must.

Let's start with Refill & Return models.

Reuse practice (through refill or return) is not new. It has always been around for centuries all over the world. Yet, it is nowhere to become a common one. But now is the time to give it a big push.

Indeed, these reuse models not only help to address the plastic waste issue but also could be the answer to how to serve affordable amounts to economically disadvantaged groups. There is no need for small plastic packaging, which actually is the main leak to the ocean since customers can refill and pay for the exact amount they wish or return and get some money back.

4 R models in the frame!

Refill model: Consumers remain ownership and hold the hold responsibility for cleaning and maintaining containers in good form.

Refill at home

Refill on the go


The process flows as consumers buy, use products with reusable containers, then acquire refills through subscription services or directly at shops to refill their products at home. This model is the best fit for E-commerce businesses selling personalized/ compact refill products: homecare, personal care products, etc. At the same time, it can also be applied to traditional retail shops with standard-size refills.

Compare to refilling at home, refilling on the go only differs in the refill phase, which happens at stores: traditional outlets, supermarkets, or urban coffee shops.


  • Compost products by reducing cost and emissions of packaging and transportation

  • Customization with the ability to satisfy customer unique needs through personalized packaging and desired quantities, e.g. Pepsi Soda stream.

  • Brand loyalty

  • Customization

  • Smart systems, e.g., through AI, collect and analyze user performance and preferences.

  • Compact product

  • Brand loyalty


  • Ensure that the refill packaging is better than the single-use one, which is either recycled, reused, or composted in practice

  • The industry standard and the conflict between a conventional product and a refilled one.

  • Motivate behavior change: carry and clean their own containers

  • Develop dispense system: mass accessible, safe, hygiene, easy to use.

Return model: Packaging and its ownership return to business. Business also takes care of cleaning and maintaining packaging.

Return from home

Return on the go


In this model, most often, consumers buy products and subscribe to pick-up services; after the use phase, businesses will take back the empty ones in exchange for a new one. The used one will be cleaned, refilled at the business operation location, and ready for the new loop. There are many successful examples in this model, especially E-commerce entities with groceries, ready-meal, personal care, etc.

In this model, consumers need to carry and return packaging at drop-off points or stores after their use phase. That's why it works best for traditional retail shops in urban areas with available drop-off points.


  • Superior design aims to improve user experience through a unique look, multi-functionality

  • Deposit & reward through a deposit & reward scheme for reusable packaging.

  • Share design with other products/brands to optimize the operation and economic of scale in terms of distribution and logistics.

  • Deposit & reward

  • Share design

  • Smart system


  • Sufficient reverse logistics, cleaning, and refilling infrastructure

  • Incentivize deposit & reward scheme with the affordable original price

  • Develop a real-time tracking system.

  • Good scheme deposit & reward.

  • Accessible return point & easy process

  • Reverse logistic & tracking system

Which model is the best match for your business?


2. National Geographic




I started Sustainability House with the goal of offering readers a glimpse into my thoughts and experiences. What started out as weekly posts have evolved into a dynamic site packed with information about various topics that are near and dear to me. Take some time to explore the blog and see for yourself what makes you curious and eager.


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