A recently patented reusable container system is durable, environmentally friendly and highly adaptable, and would be perfect for the fresh produce industry, its inventor says.

Don Avery, president of Chesterfield, Mo.-based Avery Packaging, patented his reusable trans-port packaging (RTP) technology Dec. 1. The system, Avery said, can provide transporters of produce and other food items with an alternative to reusable plastic containers (RPCs).

An RTP consists of a galvanized steel exoskeleton and what Avery calls a “vessel” — a container that fits inside the exoskeleton, and that can be made of hard or flexible plastic, film or whatever the customer wants.

Avery chose galvanized steel for the RTP’s exoskeleton for its strength and easy cleaning. It’s not as porous as plastic, he said, meaning there’s less chance of RTPs becoming contaminated.

And the exoskeletons — which can be stored flat, and are retail display-ready — are strong enough to be reused 50 times or more, he said.

“They’re far more durable” than RPCs, Avery said.

“I’ve talked to people in the industry about RPCs, and they say they have 12 to 15 uses” before they break or need to be fixed, he said.

Also, because they’re made of galvanized steel, not aluminum, there’s less chance thieves will steal them for scrap metal.

Avery Packaging can tailor vessels to customers’ needs, including making them out of transparent materials for easily visibility, Avery said.

RTPs are made with at least 90% post-consumer waste materials and are 100% recyclable, Avery said. Standard sizes are 12x20x24, 16x20x24 and 24x20x24. They interlock and fit four to a pallet layer, and can be stacked 96 inches high, Avery said.

While Avery Packaging produces both the exoskeletons and a wide variety of vessels, the company also will license the product to businesses that want to make their own, Avery said.