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Corrugated board vs. plastics

The framework of the study consisted of shipping boxes containing 7 kilograms of apples on a 350-kilometer journey that went from orchard to warehouse to retailer. What were the essential findings of the investigation? Packaging solutions using corrugated board were 13% cheaper than those using plastic. In absolute numbers, the expected packaging cost for transporting 1,000 kilograms of apples in plastic crates was approximately 207 €. While the cost for the same performance using corrugated board was approximately 183 €.

The study’s credibility lies in its highly accurate calculations. Here’s why: all factors – such as prices, handling times, distances, and pallet utilization – were correctly identified, and if there were any uncertainties, the plastic packaging was given the benefit of the doubt.

Findings of the German market researchers are supported by the study from Valencia cited above. For a reference model, this study chose the transportation of tomatoes in packages weighing up to 7 kg. They were shipped in refrigerated trucks from the growing sites in Almería, Spain, to Hamburg, Germany. This is a very representative example, especially when you consider that tomatoes are Spain’s leading export produce and are mainly exported to Germany.

As a result, the cost of using corrugated board boxes is fundamentally lower than the use of plastic packaging – when calculated over the entire life cycle of the materials. The procurement costs for corrugated board alone are approximately 14 % lower than the cost of leasing – and paying the deposit on plastic containers. Based on the assumption that used corrugated board will not be sold to a waste management company.

The life-cycle cost per corrugated board box is between 26 % to 41% (211 cents to 337 cents) lower than the cost of using comparable plastic packaging. (Cost differences vary depending on whether or not the price of returning and cleaning the empty plastic crates is included in the calculation.) If you also take into account the proceeds from selling the used corrugated board, this natural material is as much as 43 % (348 cent per plastic crate) cheaper.