Rethinking the “use-by” date. From waste, to community building.

Published on
February 4, 2023
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The cost of expiration dates

Most products have a “use-by” date. Even if a product can be safely used past this date, retailers have to remove it from their shelves. There is no flexibility either; not even FMCG products that are in high demand and consumed quickly can be shipped to retailers if they are within six months of their use-by date.

These extreme regulations work against modern sustainability practices and leave brands, suppliers, and distributors stuck with perfectly good products they can no longer sell. This is particularly true of items that have long shelf lives such as dry goods or personal care products. Imagine sitting on six months of inventory that is safe to use but cannot be sold. For a business, this is not only frustrating but costly. Meanwhile, local communities could benefit from receiving these items as donations, but don’t because the infrastructure to facilitate this hasn’t existed—until now.

Case in point: A new home for lip balm

A supplier of lip care products found themselves dealing with this issue a couple of times per year. Once their lip balms were within six months of the printed use-by date, retailers couldn’t purchase them despite the fact they were usable for another six months.

Simply trashing them wasn’t an option either. These products contain a chemical formulation, meaning they cannot be disposed of in a standard waste stream such as a landfill. Instead, a certified waste hauler would have to dispose of them following safe waste regulations for the disposal of the chemical compounds within. The entire process was expensive and wasteful; there had to be a better solution.

Data for good

Familiar with our expertise in waste diversion and donations, a compliance specialist from the company reached out to see if SmarterX could help divert thousands of non-saleable lip balms from waste. Through our partnership with Feeding America, we were able to connect the company with a local food bank that was happy to provide the unwanted lip balms to those in need. As a result, the company was able to help their local community instead of wasting perfectly good products. SmarterX facilitated a smarter solution that was less expensive for the company and better for the planet and the local community.

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