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RFID Scanning for Reusable Packaging Programs

In this blog we dive into all things RFID, including how RFID scanning works for reusable packaging programs, what the benefits of RFID are for reusable containers, and why you should consider Topanga’s first-to-market RFID tracking for your reusable packaging program.

Hand holding a RFID-tagged reusable container
Example of a RFID-tagged reusable container.

What is RFID and how does it work for reusable packaging programs?

Radio Frequency Identifications (RFID) is a technology that enables a “read zone” to open and close rentals wirelessly, automatically, and without any labor. In a reusable packaging program, each reusable container is tagged with a unique RFID tracker, which is then scanned and registered by the RFID reader in the “read zone.”

What are “read zones” and where should they be installed?

“Read zones” are 1–6ft spatial areas where reusable containers tagged with encoded QR/RFID tags will be passively scanned by the RFID reader as they pass through. These RFID readings relay the current status and location of a reusable container such as checked-out or returned. Read zones should be installed in key choke points of your operations, such as above flight machine dishwashers or core loading docks to help you understand the status of your inventory and readily relay to end consumers that their container return has been received (see read-zone location examples below).

Why is RFID great for reusables packaging programs?

Decreased Labor

With RFID, returned reusable containers are scanned back in passively, requiring no additional labor or training for back-of-house dining teams.

Increased Container-Tracking Accuracy

RFID eliminates human error via data-capture workflows which improves container tracking, furthering a frictionless reusables experience for the student user.

Increased ROI

With the Topanga Dashboard, all of RFID-captured data is integrated in real-time giving program managers insight into their reusable container inventory so they can directly see their ROI. Thanks to the easily and highly-verifiable data captures through RFID technology, the ROI potential of implementing RFID to launch and scale a reusables program is clear from the get-go.

Additionally, other reusables programs offer a labor-less staff approach for returns where students self-scan containers at a kiosk, however this requires an investment in as many kiosks as there are return locations. With Topanga, one read-zone investment allows you to track returns from bins scattered across your campus.

Simple Implementation

RFID can be launched with limited operational lift or hurdles, making it easy for food service organizations to implement in their existing ReusePass reusables program.

GIF of reusable containers getting scanned by RFID scanner
RFID scanner in operation.

Does Topanga have an RFID solution?

Yes! Topanga launched its first-to-market RFID tracking solution for reusables programs in the fall of 2023.

Topanga ReusePass and AssetPath reusables programs all leverage track-and-trace technology to give you real-time performance data on the success of your reusables program. While Topanga’s ScanApp is powerful for executing 1:1 container tracking and is still the recommended option for front-of-house container checkouts, we saw that as our ReusePass programs began to scale there was a growing need for labor-less scanning technology in high-volume operations, especially in back-of-house environments during the returns process. Hence, Topanga’s RFID solution was created!

We partnered with leading RFID companies around the world to develop reader and tagging technology that allows reusable containers to be scanned in and out passively, requiring no additional labor for back-of-house dining teams or diners.

Today, Topanga RFID programs are currently live across both our ReusePass programs, with campuses like the Ohio State University and Boston University, and our AssetPath programs, launching soon with partners across healthcare, senior living, and B&I campuses.

How can I get started with Topanga’s RFID solution?

To learn more about how to incorporate Topanga’s RFID solution into your reusable packaging program, contact us at We’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have!

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