Engineers, policy makers, and managers have shown increasing interest in increasing the sustainability of products over their complete lifecycles and also from the ‘cradle to grave’ or from production to the disposal of each specific product. However, a significant amount of material is disposed of in landfills rather than being reused in some form. A sizeable proportion of the products being dumped in landfills consist of packaging materials for consumable products. Technological advances in plastics, packaging, cleaning, logistics, and new environmental awareness and understanding may have altered the cost structures surrounding the lifecycle use and disposal costs of many materials and products resulting in different cost-benefit trade-offs. An explicit and well-informed economic analysis of reusing certain containers might change current practices and results in significantly less waste disposal in landfills and in less consumption of resources for manufacturing packaging materials. This work presents a method for calculating the costs associated with a complete process of implementing a system to reuse plastic containers for food products. Specifically, the different relative costs of using a container and then either disposing of it in a landfill, recycling the material, or reconditioning the container for reuse and then reusing it are compared explicitly. Specific numbers and values are calculated for the case of plastic milk bottles to demonstrate the complicated interactions and the feasibility of such a strategy.

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