(June 13) Cost is one of the roadblocks preventing many grower-shippers, distributors and retailers from adopting radio frequency identification technology.

Advocates of returnable plastic containers think they may have a solution.

The Reusable Pallet & Container Coalition, Washington, D.C., will soon launch a multiphase pilot program aimed at determining whether multiuse RFID tags — such as those on RPCs — are more cost-effective than the single-use tags on corrugated containers.

Jeanie Johnson, the coalition’s executive director, and her members are confident multiuse RFID tags will indeed be found to be cheaper in the long run. And if the testing, tentatively set to begin July 1, proves them right, Johnson said it could shake up both the RFID and the RPC industry.

“I think if this turns out well, it will make the single biggest impact in the reusable industry since reusables were introduced,” she said.

RFID is a great fit for RPCs and other reusable containers, Johnson said, because traceability and tracking are crucial to managing pools of containers that are used multiple times.

Likewise, she said, reusables are a great fit for RFID. If the cost of RFID tags can be spread out over multiple uses, making it a cheaper alternative in the long run, those potential users who have been sitting on the fence may have the momentum they need to take action.

“I think it’s going to be a beautiful marriage,” Johnson said. “We think reusables are going to be the enabler for RFID. And the visibility RFID provides is crucial for our members.”

The coalition’s pilot program is projected to take place in three stages, Johnson said. The first, set to begin in July, is a readability test. A lab at a university yet to be named will put RFID tags on reusable containers through tests to gauge how well they weather harsh conditions such as those often faced by fresh produce containers, Johnson said.