In early 2018, the Fraunhofer Institut für Bauphysik (Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics [IBP]) published a study on the carbon footprint of returnable plastic containers, based on example packing systems for fruit and vegetable transport. According to the study findings, the use of returnable plastic bins resulted in 60% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than with single-use transport packaging made of cardboard.
According to Christine Jorzik: “From the 6th cycle onwards, returnable containers for small loads produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per transport cycle.”
Every week more than 10,000 containers leave Hema's central warehouse packed with orders. Once they arrive in store, the goods are sorted, and the containers are collapsed and stored until the next scheduled return transport leg to save space. When they arrive back at the central warehouse, they are unstacked, unfolded, and fed back into the closed-loop system as supply, picking, or transport containers. Over the years, SSI SCHAEFER has supplied Hema with around 800,000 plastic containers – that is a total volume of 45,600 m3 or the equivalent of almost 900 standard-sized swimming pools. “The majority of these containers are still in use,” explains Michel van Leeuwen. “The continued demand is due to the growth of our store and logistics network. Thanks to their high quality, the containers themselves last a very long time and show almost no signs of damage – they’re almost ‘unbreakable’.” Even after two decades of use, the wear and tear on Hema’s plastic containers is negligible.
By working together during the selection process to define the requirements for the returnable containers in terms of quality, technology, and materials, Hema and SSI SCHAEFER developed a flexible solution for storage, picking, and transport, which has stood the test of time for almost 20 years.