Returnable Packaging: What is it & Who uses it?

Posted by Universal Package Team on Tue, May 23, 2023

What Universal Package Brings to the Table

Universal Package offers a comprehensive range of products and solutions to cater to your returnable packaging needs. With options including bulk containers, hand totes, pallets, metal rack systems and custom-designed returnable packaging & dunnage, you can find the perfect fit for your specific requirements.

Customizable and scalable options ensure that your returnable packaging solutions can grow and adapt to your business. As your operations expand, Universal Package can help you develop a packaging system that remains efficient and cost-effective.

What we specialize in at Universal Package is custom dunnage & engineered solutions for each of these types of containers & racks to fit each of our customer's specific needs.  Watch for more info on what dunnage is and how your business can utilize our services in an upcoming blog post.

Providing a cost-effective and sustainable way to transport goods, these products offer numerous benefits across various industries and applications.


Industries that Benefit from Returnable Packaging Solutions

Our expertise spans various industries, including food and beverage, automotive, pharmaceuticals, medical, agriculture, electronics, appliances and many more. This knowledge allows us to provide specialized solutions tailored to your industry's unique demands, ensuring the optimal protection and transport of your products. Just a few of the common industry uses are:

  • Automotive Industry, returnable packaging solutions are used to transport assembled parts and components from one production facility to another, as well as, Work in Progress - movement of parts within the facility.
  • Pharmaceuticals & Medical Device supply chain management is another sector that can benefit from returnable packaging solutions. They can be utilized to safely transport pharmaceuticals & medical devices to ensure the quality and integrity of the products.
  • Electronics & Appliance, returnable packaging solutions provide efficient and secure transportation of delicate items, such as computer hardware, appliance part and consumer electronics.
  • Agriculture is yet another sector that can benefit from returnable packaging solutions. Bulk Containers and pallets can be used to transport produce, seedlings, and other agricultural items safely and securely.

How can we help?

In addition to our wide range of products, Universal Package is dedicated to providing exceptional customer support and service. We strive to make the transition to returnable packaging as seamless as possible, helping your business achieve both its sustainability and cost-saving goals.

As we've explored throughout this post, returnable packaging containers offer numerous benefits, including environmental sustainability, cost savings, and enhanced product protection. Moreover, returnable packaging containers also prove valuable in trade shows and exhibitions by providing efficient transport and protection for materials. (More to come on this topic in a future blog.)

If you're ready to make the switch to returnable packaging solutions, look no further than Universal Package. With our extensive range of products and services, customizable and scalable options, industry expertise, and dedicated customer support, we have everything you need to successfully implement a returnable packaging system. Let us help you revolutionize the way you package, transport, and protect your products. Contact us today to discuss your returnable packaging needs and discover the perfect solution for your business.

Tags: bulk boxes, custom plastic containers, totes, agricultural, Dunnage, shipping containers, returnable containers, protective packaging, packaging systems, corrugated plastic boxes, industrial packaging, returnable packaging, Automotive

Popular Corrugated Plastic Boxes For Shipping

Posted by Universal Package Team on Thu, Feb 08, 2018


While the most common packaging material in the shipping and manufacturing industry is corrugated paper, corrugated plastic boxes are becoming a more popular packaging choice.

Plastic Corrugated Containers

Plastic corrugated boxes are similar in styles and purpose to corrugated paper, but by using corrugated plastic the container can be reused multiple times. This is highly beneficial in controlling and reducing costs if the application and distribution cycle allows for the return of containers to the shipper.

The primary material for a corrugated plastic container is fluted polypropylene sheets. This is an extruded sheet in flat form, the thicknesses of these sheets starts at 2mm and goes up to 25mm. The flat sheets can then be used to fabricate various styles of corrugated boxes and custom packaging systems.

Types of Corrugated Plastic Boxes

The most common plastic corrugated boxes used for shipping purposes are the set-up hand totes and the die cut shippers.

Set-up hand totes normally come with stacking frames and are custom made to a required size. These totes can include custom interiors designed specifically for the part being shipped. Generally, the interiors of these totes are made from corrugated plastic, foam or a combination of the two materials.

Die cut shippers are normally fabricated by die cutting plastic corrugated sheets. This type of shipping container is shipped flat to the customer and requires folding at score lines to erect the container. A great benefit of these containers is that they can be folded flat after use and returned to the original shipper.

Both the set-up containers and die cut shippers can be made to any dimension and style. The packaging specifications given by the customer will determine both the style and dimensions of a corrugated plastic container.

Cost Savings Generated

When purchasing packaging containers, keep in mind plastic corrugated containers will require an initial investment. This type of packaging would not be practical if the economics for returning the plastic containers can’t be justified. However, the upside of replacing a paper-shipping box with a plastic corrugated box is the reduction in cost over a period of time.

A standard 12x12x12 box made from paper can cost as little as $.90 each. While a 12x12x12 plastic corrugated box will cost more than paper, they are not affected by moisture, humidity, rough handling or other hazards associated with most distribution environments.

Plastic corrugated containers will last for years and can be recycled at the end of their life. After 5 trips, the plastic corrugated container has paid for itself and the true cost savings begin.

Contact us to discuss your packaging needs or design your next custom packaging solution. 

Tags: returnable containers, reusable containers, corrugated plastic boxes, corrugated shipping containers

Industrial Packaging Solutions Showcase

Posted by Universal Package Team on Thu, Dec 28, 2017


Universal strives to create an experience that streamlines the time you need to spend on packaging by offering products and services all in one place, that other companies will not or cannot provide.

Universal Package is a one-stop shop for reusable packaging.

We are a full manufacturing facility as well as a distributor of standard containers and totes. When you work with us you are not working with a middle-man. We pride ourselves in providing excellent customer service and working with our customers to provide a complete packaging solution.

We are constantly growing and improving our equipment and processes to allow for more packaging options and efficient production time. Through all of our growth we still maintain a “job shop” mentality which allows us to react quickly to our customer’s needs and allow for a greater flexibility with our scheduling to take care of our customers.

Package Engineering and Production

Our designers are able to take a customer’s existing CAD part file and integrate it into our software to create a truly custom engineered packaging solution. We are able to illustrate part fit and get a better “nest” of parts to maximize part density and therefore reduce cost for our customers.

This also allows us to visualize potential problems without having to create multiple samples, which cuts cost and time for our customers.

Our goal is the right fit the first time and our design department and sales staff work closely to make sure the packaging we engineer meet or exceed the customer’s expectations. Even if that means using multiple materials and trying various design combinations to create the perfect packaging system.

Universal Package is about creating a complete packaging solution, not just a box.

Contact us to discuss your packaging needs or design your next custom packaging solution. 

Tags: returnable containers, reusable containers, packaging systems, engineered packaging, industrial packaging

Container Repair or New Replacement Containers?

Posted by Universal Package Team on Wed, Dec 13, 2017


We understand reusable plastic packaging containers and steel racks take a beating while in transit and at your facility. After months and years of daily wear and tear, you and your customers know these containers need attention.

Before you place another order for new replacement containers, you should have your material handling systems evaluated for repair.

With our understanding of container and steel rack functionality, there’s a good chance repairs can be made to existing containers and racks. Using the proper equipment and expertise, we get your units back in your system at a much lower cost than buying new units.

Why consider taking advantage of container repair services?

Increased cost savings, help the environment, and keep your lot cleaned up, organized and away from the attention of the Fire Marshall. Perception of a facility goes a long way.

Repair Process

When your containers arrive in our facility they are put through a rigorous inspection process. The containers are sorted and during inspection, usable parts begin to be matched with other usable parts.

For instance, a solid or repairable base goes with a wall from a unit that has a base that cannot be repaired. This is the least costly repair method and will quickly save you money. 

Units having minor cracks and non-structural damage are sent to our plastic welding facility. All holes and cracks are welded and reinforced. Any unit with less than 3 runners (fork truck safety straps) missing is considered repairable. 

While evaluating steel racks and containers, we mainly look at the interior dunnage, curtains and frames. Typically we don’t repair container frames that are completely bent, however we will cut and reinsert a frame post if possible. It all depends on the complexity of the rack we receive.

Steel rack and plastic bulk container interior dunnage part replacement is our specialty. We have the capability to die cut plastic corrugated replacement parts, water jet foam parts and can machine any plastic component replacement part.

For low volume replacements we have the ability to eliminate die costs and use our CAD table to cut plastic corrugated and foam components. For any job we can’t reproduce the part, we reach out to the previous vendor for replacement parts, this helps keep all repairs in one place and eliminates the customers’ management time.

Once the inspection process is complete and inventoried (repairable or rejected), along with parts required, a quote is submitted to our customer to show the evaluation of each item and cost to get the units back in working condition. 

Cost Savings

Based on workload and number of containers to be repaired, container repair services greatly reduce the lead-time to get the units back in the system, versus purchasing new units. Usually new units are needed at a lower volume than original purchased quantity. That factor drives the cost of new replacement units to a much higher level than the original build.

In this instance, container repair not only reduces cost, but also gets containers back in action where you need them most.

Another opportunity for cost savings is when a product run is over and racks or containers need to be eliminated. In this scenario, we try and retrofit the racks for future projects so there is a greater cost savings to the customer by repurposing existing containers.

Eco Friendly

Repair services provide you with the opportunity to get the most out of any Returnable Packaging System. Recycling containers to be put back in your system and recycling non-repairable parts and container materials greatly benefits the environment. 

All plastic bulk containers that are not repairable are recycled. There is a return to the customer for materials that get recycled. The return is usually lower for these materials because of the costs incurred during container inspection. For example, if we receive 100 units and can repair 60% of them, the recycled value is set at a rate about 1/3 of what a recycler might pay. The value gained is in the repaired units.

Any unit that is very complex and needs to be disassembled before recycling has little value in recycled materials. In some cases, to eliminate these units, we charge labor to break them down and get them to a recyclable point. 

Look at the back lots at your facilities. We can help clean these up and improve the overall safety, quality and perception of your business and facilities. Perception and cost savings is everything! Let’s get the containers back in working order and keep your products moving.

Contact us to evaluate your packaging units, get them repaired and back in your system saving you money.

 Learn More About Container Repair

Tags: returnable containers, reusable containers, container repair

Key Features & Benefits of Returnable Packaging

Posted by Universal Package Team on Wed, Nov 15, 2017

returnable packaging.jpg

Wikipedia defines returnable packaging as manufactured, durable materials specifically designed for multiple trips and extended life. A reusable package or container is “designed for reuse without impairment of its protective function.” 

While this definition is accurate, there are few more qualities and benefits of reusable packaging that we would like to expand upon.


The reusability of packaging is an important feature when considering the environmental credo of “reduce, reuse, and recycle”. It is also important to the forward movement of sustainable packaging, since most all regulators encourage returnable packaging today.

Our products are typically designed for 3-5 year programs.  The reusability of these items reduces waste and disposal costs for our customers. Not only does this benefit our customers, but the environment as well considering 90% of the materials we use for our products are recyclable, and can be reprocessed into raw materials for reuse.

Returnable Packaging Engineering

The main function of returnable packaging is to safely transport products from vendor to end user, as well as move product from one area of a plant to another.

One of the greatest things about the packaging industry is that we see new products from all over the world that need to be packed and moved safely.  Because of this, we are constantly learning about new packaging technologies and engineering.

The process for developing returnable packaging starts with an in-depth discussion about the customer’s requirements. Designing a returnable package system can take time, but it is essential to get all of the necessary details to provide a quality product.

Sales reps are the point of contact for gathering the information needed by management for packaging review and design. Our management team then determines if all the needed information has been collected to successfully engineer a product.

For example, a sales rep might ask questions like:

  • Do the parts need to be protected using protective packaging?
  • Can the parts be bulk packed in a steel or plastic container to safely transport the product from A to B?
  • What type of environment will the product be stored in?

And so on. These questions may seem excessive, but are key when developing a returnable packaging system for a client.

As soon as we compile all of the product information –size and weight, shipping and handling, and storage environment, our engineering team will start to conceptualize and mock-up a design.   

During the packaging design phase, durability, function, and ergonomics are all taken into consideration to develop the best product for the supplier and customer.

Money & Time Savings

The long-term savings generated by returnable packaging alone is tremendous. Time spent on written orders and the constant stream of money going out for single-use packaging is greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

The customer’s time is also reduced when purchasing reusable containers. Instead of buying monthly expendable packaging systems, the returnable units are usually a one-time capital expenditure.

These cost and time savings can be proven for any packaging design we offer, including our returnable packaging systems.

To learn more about our returnable packaging products and how they can create efficiencies in your business give us a call or send us an email with any questions.

Request A Quote

Tags: custom plastic containers, returnable containers, reusable containers, packaging materials

Save $633,744 By Changing Your Container Type

Posted by Katie Knight on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Custom_Returnable_Sleeve_PackEvery logistics manager knows that of all the costs associated with packaging, shipping, and materials handling, the costs related to expendable containers usually rank quite high.

Expendable containers can drain a significant amount of resources, costing a company a substantial amount of money over time, especially when compared to recyclable and reusable packaging.

A new eBook by Universal Package—titled Save $633,744 by Changing Your Container Type—dispels this idea. The eBook presents a detailed cost analysis of operations over five years, analyzing the impact of both returnable and expendable container types throughout the enterprise.

A cost analysis is also explored from the point of view of three considerations having to do with packaging, shipping, and material handling: cost, quality, and operational efficiency.

Cost, Quality, and Operational Efficiency

From a quality standpoint, expendable packs are often seen as a far cheaper option than returnable containers. Customers can simply throw away most expendable packs once they receive the order, so several manufacturers opt for containers that are of lower quality, and can be made of less durable materials that don’t need to last as long.

From a cost standpoint, expendable packages require a lower investment up-front than reusable containers. The initial investment usually incorporates a number of factors, such as the length of the shipping cycle (time spent in transit and at different facilities), and any cleaning or sorting operation. The type of container also matters, such as whether it’s standardized or specialized.

From the point of view of operational efficiency, expendable packaging is seen as adding far less to a company’s overall operational costs. Returnable packaging often requires you to keep track of a number of moving parts involved with shipping. And as such, you have to have staff to deal with these factors.

Cost Savings with Returnable Containers

Universal Package’s new eBook uses real data and cost analysis to show exactly how returnable containers can save a company far more over time than expendable containers. The eBook goes into remarkable detail using real dollar amounts for parts and units, and paints a clear picture of the cost savings achievable with returnable containers.

Download the eBook today, and contact Universal for any questions about your packaging and shipping needs.

Save now! Download eBook

Tags: shipping containers, returnable containers, expendable containers, container cost analysis