Packaging Materials Comparison
Packaging refers to products of any material that are specifically made for containment, handling, protecting and delivery of goods from the user to the consumer. There are different types of packaging; in this essay, the main materials of focus will be on paper container, wood container and plastic container as a distribution package. Packaging affects the cost of the entire logistic and supply chain as the transport and storage of any packaged is dependent on how the goods are packaged, including the packaging material.
Paper-based shipping container
These include shipping containers made up of paper material and might include containerboard, paperboard, paper bags and shipping sacks. Containerboard is also known as cardboard, corrugated containerboard or corrugated fiberboard and is usually made up of several layers of paper. Paperboards are different in that they are thicker than the normal paper and come in different grades depending on the type of goods being packaged. Paper bags are made up of Kraft paper that is cut into different shapes and sizes. Examples of paper bags include lunch bag and grocery bags that are made up of a single layer of paper. In contrast, shipping sacks are mostly made up of layers of Kraft paper which does not tear and is flexible (American Forest & Paper Association, 2018).
Paper-based shipping containers have several advantages including:
- They are light in weight compared to shipping containers made of wood or metal. The low weight ensures that the containers are easy to handle, do not require any form of heat treatment and are cheap to ship.
- They are easy to access as they are universally known; many people can easily open up a cardboard box.
- They are less costly than other types of containers as they do not need heating or any other costly form of processing.
- Paper-based containers can be environmentally friendly as they are reusable and biodegradable.
- They are easy to handle during storage and shipment as they do not require special equipment for handling.
Some of the disadvantages of plastic-based shipping containers include the following:
- They are not weather proof – rain or any liquid spillage could damage the goods contained. Humidity, cold, wind, and snowfall can easily damage the containers. This could occur at any stage of the supply chain, including during storage or when the goods are in transit.
- They cannot support heavy goods – cardboard boxes can easily collapse when they are carrying too much load, and this could end up damaging the goods.
- Plastic-based containers can only be used a few times before the paper degrades and the use will need to keep on replacing the container (Raheem, 2012).
Wood-based shipping containers
These refer to shipping containers made of wood and might include wooden crates, boxes, and containers.
The advantages of wood-based shipping containers include the following:
- They can pack, store and transport large objects or heavy machinery. This is because compared to paper, wood can withstand a lot of pressure or weight and cannot disintegrate.
- Wood-based containers have a good stacking ability, and this is a major advantage, especially when it comes to storing or shipping a large consignment. A wooden crate or box can support a lot of vertical pressure without any worry that the goods could be damaged.
- Wood-based containers can be used and reused for years without them breaking or degrading.
- Wooden containers and boxes can help protect the goods stored from precipitation and spillage as they do not allow liquids to sip through. Unlike paper-based containers, goods can be stored in wooden container for a long period of time without the worry of the goods spoiling (Singh et al., 2014).
- Wood is renewable and is resource-friendly, and users will not need to worry about its carbon emission or carbon footprint.
- Wooden crates are easy to prepare and customize depending on the nature and size of goods being stored or transported. Wooden crates are easy to use throughout the supply chain.
- If destroyed, wood-based containers can be easily fixed using nails and hammer and get the containers back to the usable status.
Despite the abovementioned advantages, wood-based shipping containers have their limitations including:
- Unlike paper-based containers, wood requires some sort of heat treatment to prevent infestation by pests, fungi, and bacteria. This makes wood containers a little costly to make.
- Wood can be too hard to store or transport some produce. For instance, wooden containers cannot be used to transport items such as soft fruits or electronics as they can easily be damaged, especially during transit.
- The pesticides, paints and other chemicals used to treat wood can damage the packaged goods. For instance, the chemicals can damage edible goods such as fruits and vegetables.
- Wood could often give certain odors that might be unappealing to people handling the containers and could damage the quality of some sensitive goods.
- Wooden containers are difficult to wash and any discoloration from spillage can be difficult to wash off (Swedberg, 2012).
Plastic-based shipping containers
These are made of high density polyethylene or polypropylene, and some have added antioxidants and UV protectors.
Compared to plastic-based and wooden-based shipping containers, plastic-based shipping containers have the following advantages:
- They have a very long lifespan and could be used as containers for months and years.
- Plastics have a smooth surface, and unlike wood, they are easy to clean and tidy. They are also not prone to difficult to clean discolorations.
- Plastic-based shipping containers come in different shapes, sizes, and colors depending on different customer needs.
- Plastic containers are also weather-resistant and this makes them ideal for storing and transporting goods even in humid areas (Tullo, 2016).
The disadvantages of plastic-based shipping containers include the following:
- Just like wood-based shipping containers, the hard and rigid surface of plastic-based containers increase their likelihood of damaging produce.
- Plastic containers are more expensive to make as they do not occur naturally like wood.
- Plastics are not biodegradable, and they pose an environmental threat as they are not easy to dispose of. Plastic debris has been found to poison humans and animals and to pollute water bodies.
Each of the packaging material has its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, while wooden-based and plastic-based containers are more durable than the paper-based containers, paper based containers are cheaper and easy to use and dispose. Deciding what type of packaging material will depend on numerous factors, including affordability, convenience, customer needs, and the types of goods being transported or stored. Each of the three packaging materials however serves their purpose.