In my opinion: Packaging cardboard boxes-why the future of transport packaging is plastic, says Schoeller Allibert UK

From raw materials to the final destination logistics, the supply chain is under unprecedented pressure. Whether it is retail, food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, or other fields, the drive to achieve more transparent and sustainable operations has an absolute priority.
However, as we know, things are not that simple. After the global pandemic, we still see major changes in consumer behavior and buying trends, which means that speed, volume, and continuous supply are still critical to business success. Competing in today’s fierce and rapidly evolving market can be a true balancing act.
One side effect of the global pandemic-which has streamlined many companies when necessary-is a close scrutiny of operational efficiency. As the number of people decreases to create a safer working environment, there are now new opportunities to analyze the efficiency of logistics and equipment usage.
Over the years, brands in almost all industries have continued to debate plastic versus cardboard. When we look at the evolution of containers used to transport goods in busy production plants or further through the supply chain, both methods have historically had advantages-but the scale continues to favor plastics.
But why is this? Why do brands now see the new value brought by durable plastic containers, which were previously filled with cardboard and cardboard? The answer lies in the ever-changing dialogue surrounding sustainability and circular economy.
Like paper, cardboard is considered more sustainable because of its biomass source-but is this really the case?
One of the biggest disadvantages of cardboard containers that still exist in internal logistics is their very short service life. An inevitable problem with cardboard is that it is not as strong and durable as plastic. The simple approach to disposal and recycling is great, but every time the humble cardboard box production cycle is restarted, energy and carbon dioxide are consumed in the recycling process itself, the production and transportation of the product from the supplier to the customer.
In this way, treating cardboard as an inherently more sustainable product is in a way a false economy-recycling may be much simpler, but it is more than durable plastic. Go through this process frequently. The French Carton Federation estimates that during its entire life cycle, one ton of corrugated cardboard will produce 538 kilograms of carbon dioxide. In contrast, research conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that, on average, the energy used to make plastic is 40% lower than cardboard or paperboard.
Of course, we must also consider the environmental impact of deforestation when producing virgin cardboard or mixed cardboard. Although many of today’s cardboards come from renewable dedicated forests before they are felled, boiled or mixed with chemicals to make pulp, this is not exactly the same.
Just like the consumers they serve, brands are gaining a deeper understanding of sustainability and understanding it at a deeper level. We see cardboard and assume that it is more sustainable than plastic, which is often seen as a scapegoat by the media. The reality is that sustainability is complex and life cycle assessment (LCA) is important. “Greener” cardboard is not necessarily true, it is entirely a matter of perspective and how we measure sustainability.
One of the main benefits of cardboard for brands and their supply chain is its usability. Cardboard has been used commercially for a long time, dating back to China in the 15th century. Dedicated cartons were first put into use in the early 1800s, which predates almost all other technologies we see today. It has a lasting appeal-so no wonder it is still so common today.
This is seen as unlimited potential-after all, trees can always be planted to make new cardboard. However, there is a well-documented obstacle in the UK market. Until 2021 and as early as October 2020, corrugated cardboard has been in short supply, leading to logistics problems and price increases. As suppliers strive to get raw materials and cardboard packaging back into the supply stream, the chain reaction to the company is considerable. For many companies that rely on fast, accurate and consistent internal logistics, no cardboard means no supply chain. In this business environment, durable plastic packaging has become a more readily available alternative.
Both plastic and cardboard packaging can be used in a closed-loop economy, which makes them basically the same in this regard. The difference between them is that durable plastics, such as those used to make Schoeller Allibert’s nesting containers, IBC, pallets, and trolley series, have a longer service life.
Cardboard has certain advantages to the supply chain, but it relies on a large amount of incoming packaging and fast garbage collection. In addition to the increased energy demand mentioned earlier, this also requires additional processes and management steps to reduce labor.
Talking to our customers who have “made changes”, durable plastic packaging can be a “one-and-for-all” solution, once in place, it will last a long time before it needs to be replaced. Of course, when it does need to be replaced, Schoeller Allibert has the appropriate recycling infrastructure to collect it and recycle it into new packaging. In fact, our business has become the first recyclable transport packaging manufacturer to obtain EFSA certification during the recycling process.
All in all, as the debate about recycled plastics becomes more and more intense, we see that cardboard becomes less and less attractive to brands. It’s no secret that the general term plastic is regarded as a villain by the media in terms of sustainability, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Brands that have shifted internal logistics to plastics are seeing real-time benefits and better protection of business operations.
At Schoeller Allibert, we focus on helping companies find ideal solutions from production lines to warehouses and workshops. With more than 60 years of innovation, Schoeller Allibert’s product portfolio can easily meet the changing needs of the market, improve efficiency, transparency and safety, and create a more sustainable supply chain in the process.
To learn more about the latest innovations in Schoeller Allibert’s RTP, please visit www.schoellerallliber.com/uk


Post time: Oct-17-2021