FEFCO’S report indicates that recyclable corrugated packaging consistently performs better than plastic reusable packaging
This performance is measured in terms of the impact on climate change based on the following Environmental Footprint Impact categories:
- Biogenic climate change
- The eco-toxicity of freshwater
- The eutrophication of freshwater
- Cancer-related human toxicity
- Non-cancer related human toxicity
- Ionising radiation dangerous to human health
- Ozone depletion
- Fossil fuel usage
- Mineral and metal resource usage
- Water usage
Reusable plastic crates would need to be reused 63 times to be better for the climate than corrugated alternatives
This statistic suggests that plastic crates, while being reusable, are unlikely to actually be reused enough times in order to be more effective than their corrugated counterparts. This is counterproductive to the fight against climate change and the move to the most environmentally sustainable options.
Durability and the breakage rate also needs to be considered for both products- could all reusable plastic crates even withstand at least 63 uses without damage or reduced performance? The statistics from the study suggest not, with the average number of reuses and rotations being 24. Which moves us onto the next takeaway from the report…
Corrugated cardboard packaging has a lower breakage rate than reusable plastic crates
Despite the fact that reusable plastic crates can be overall better for the environment in some of the areas considered, durability is a large preventative barrier. The simple reality is that the majority of plastic crates will not withstand a minimum of 63 uses, with the number being 24 as mentioned above. Corrugated cardboard packaging, while designed for single-use, has in fact a lower breakage rate than plastic crates.
What does this mean for sustainability in supply chains and businesses?
So what do these results and statistics mean for supply chains and businesses moving into 2023 and beyond? There are a number of comparison points to consider, such as the effect of packaging on water systems, human health and resource usage. This emphasises the fact that there is no silver bullet when it comes to sustainable packaging solutions.
Essentially, reusable and recyclable options both have their individual merits, although FEFCO’s report does indicate that single-use corrugated boxes do outperform plastic multiple-use crates across a number of categories.
In 2023 and beyond, businesses will have to make increasingly urgent decisions as to where the benefits outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to sustainable packaging solutions. What really makes the most impact? Will businesses choose to use multiple-use plastic crates to deliver products in because of the reusability aspect, or will single-use cardboard boxes take precedence, particularly in light of the fact that the end recycling rate is actually double that of the plastic crates?
At Sheard Packaging, we offer a wide range of sustainable and recyclable packaging solutions, from corrugated transit cases to branded shelf ready packaging. To find out more about how we can help you fulfil your product packaging requirements or to take advantage of our dedicated Value Optimisation projects, please get in contact with our friendly team on 01422 373649 or [email protected] , or fill out our contact form.