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Thinking in advance about long term effects of the aid that a humanitarian organisation is providing can save on money , and time, reduce operational challenges, and long term minimize environmental and other damage to developing nations.

Considerations in reverse logistics ensure that aid is administered in such a way that it does not cause harm.

/or other long-term damages. 


“The process of planning, implementing, and controlling the efficient, cost effective flow of raw materials, in-process inventory, finished goods (in the humanitarian context) and related information from the point of customer receipt to the point of origin to recapture value or appropriate disposal.” -Wikipedia


“Reverse logistics is the management of all the activities involved in the flow of goods, demand information and money in the opposite direction of the primary logistics flow, a reduction in the generation of waste, and the management of the collection, transport, disposal, and recycling of hazardous as well as non-hazardous waste in a way that maximises the long term profitability of the business.” Reverse logistics is environmental friendly.-Link


Types of Reverse Logistics

What does it entail?Reverse logistics covers a broad range of items and activities and can include:

  • Movement of capital items and equipment to the next emergency response.
  • Removal of containers and packaging from response area.
  • Destruction of spoilt spoiled food commodities and out of date pharmaceuticals.
  • Return of rejected goods to the suppliers.
  • Movement of excess or over-supplied goods to other programs or donating to other organisations.

Aspects of Reverse Logistics


How can Packaging make a difference? Where possible, packaging materials could serve dual purposes as in the case of large bladders, wooden pallets, cooking drums, fuel drums, etc. See Some examples belowinclude:


As goods are mobilised through various modes of transport in response to emergencies, the bracing in ship and rail containers can be done with “pillows” which are basically large bladders filled with air.

  • The bracings can then be further used at distribution sites for water storage (or fuel storage if they are correctly lined).
  • These “pillows” filled with air also weigh less than traditional wood bracing and thus lower the weight of the shipment and the cost.
  • Environmentally the lower weight means that less over all fuel is used which is good for the environment.


  • Wooden pallets, though less expensive, may contain pests which can devastate indigenous agricultural industries.
  • Developed countries are therefore required to treat wooden pallets with chemicals making the burning of these for firewood toxic and less environmental friendly.
  • Many countries have now restricted the clearance for wooden pallets from many areas to combat the pest issue.
  • Plastic pallets can be reused as the local population will not be tempted to burn them for firewood and inadvertently poison themselves.

Cooking oil drums and fuel drums

  • These can usually be converted into barbecues or water storage containers on site thus are recycled.
  • Agencies that plan for this will look more efficient.


In all instances listed above, there are cost implications that should be taken into consideration during the budgeting period.


World Vision International – Logistics Training – Packaging, containers & reverse Logistics