Reverse logistics was traditionally defined as the process of moving a product from its point of consumption to the point of origin to recapture value or ensure proper disposal. It is one of the fastest developing fields of business logistics, with the result that it is continuously changing in scope and significance. Reverse logistics includes activities to avoid returns, to reduce materials in the forward system so that fewer items flow back, and to ensure the possible reuse and recycling of materials and packaging.

It is important to ensure that aid projects are handled in a responsible manner and that they do not end up causing long term damage to the very people and nations that they are intended to assist.

Thinking in advance about long term consequences of the assistance that a humanitarian organisation is providing can save money and time, reduce operational challenges, and minimize any possible environmental impacts. 


“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, including reduction in the generation of waste, and 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.” - Link

Types of Reverse Logistics

Reverse logistics covers a broad range of items and activities and can include:

Aspects of Reverse Logistics


Where possible, packaging materials could serve dual purposes as in the case of large bladders, wooden pallets, cooking drums, fuel drums, etc. Some examples are listed below.


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.

Wooden pallets vs. plastic pallets

Cooking oil drums and fuel drums

Plan to Back Ship

Reverse Logistics in the Humanitarian Sector

Reverse logistics occurs when there is:

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


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