Netto, one of Scandinavia's largest supermarket chains with over 1,000 stores across Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Britain and Germany, needed to re-examine their logistics system when their receiving bays were dealing with unmanageable volumes of empty corrugate boxes, trays and packaging materials.
The logistics problem was that hundreds of suppliers were sending produce in hundreds of different containers which neither fitted well on pallets nor interstacked for efficient storage and handling. This discarded packaging was taking up valuable floor space.
By 2005 Netto had a fleet of over 750,000 containers and they were saving 20 million corrugated trays a year from the landfill or re-pulping plants. At about one dollar a tray they were also saving $20M a year, through price reduction from suppliers for no longer purchasing corrugate trays. With the incentive of increasing savings, usage has continued to go up as they add to their product range of items delivered in the containers and expand shipping distances across borders.
In North America there have been some efforts to use reusable containers, but they have mostly been by third party operators which takes the profit potential away from the supermarket. Suppliers of produce have been reluctant to send goods out in their own reusable trays for fear that they may not get them back. With ownership of the fleet of containers in the hands of the supermarket, not only is there no theft, but the containers pay for themselves quickly and the profit is then made by the supermarket.