Packaging material comparison

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The different types of packaging materials to choose from when shipping encompass wood-based, plastic-based and paper-based shipping containers. An essential consideration in shipping is choosing the right shipping container. The type of shipping container used directly and indirectly influences a company’s or an individual’s logistic costs. The kind of packaging used in shipping has a direct impression on the overall expenses incurred in transporting, packaging, handling of the transported goods, storing, collecting and recycling. Consequently, there is a need to consider the nature of commodities, the durability of the commodities, the shipping conditions and the cost of transportation when deciding on the most appropriate shipping container. Concisely, a packaging system is supposed to fulfill environmental demands, logistical demands, and market demands. Fundamentally, shipping organizations prioritize the marketing aspect alongside a design’s logistics and a packaging system that is environmentally friendly. This paper compares and contrasts wood-based, plastic-based and paper-based packaging regarding the advantages and disadvantages of each shipping design.

Plastic-based Containers

Plastic-based shipping containers are the most commonly used because of their cost effectiveness and durability. Plastic shipping containers are manufactured using polymeric materials including high-density polyethylene (Twende & Selke,2014). Plastics are preferable because of their robust nature contributed to by the addition of antioxidants, which make them withstand the tossing and throwing in the shipping process. Additionally, the manufacturing cost of plastic containers is low because they are processed in large quantities. They are also inexpensive because of their reusability; companies and individuals using plastic based shipping containers cut on the shipping costs because despite the fact that they are more expensive compared to paper-based and wooden based shipping, they are durable. Furthermore, plastic containers come in different shapes and sizes and are easy to clean because of their hard and smooth surfaces which make transportation easy because they allow for the transportation of different sizes of commodities. Also, they are water proof, ensuring the ability of users to transport commodities during humid weather, unlike wooden and paper-based containers.

Despite their various advantages including reusability and durability, plastic bags also have a broad range of disadvantages. First of all, their hard surfaces, despite making them easy to wash may also damage the commodities in transport (Koskela, 2014). The use of liners to protect commodities when transporting is recommended to avoid products damage. However, liners also increase transport costs. Some plastic containers like crates luck cover exposing goods to pilferage. The increased risk of pilferage causes an increase in the purchase of plastic packaging materials which increases company’s insurance, which is in turn felt by consumers because they pay for the costs incurred when buying commodities transported using plastic containers. Furthermore, their reusability also creates a disadvantage of incurring transport costs of empty racks used after delivery of goods. Plastics bags are also bulky and take up space that would have otherwise been used to carry another cargo. They are also not flexible; unlike wood-based containers, it is impossible to change their shape to fit changing shipping needs. It is therefore important to consider the use of considers that suit the needs of the commodity to transport.

Wood-based Containers

The common types of Wood-based packaging materials include stitched, wire bound and nailed crates. Wooden based containers are manufactured and repaired locally and are used in the distribution of perishable goods and fruits. Unlike plastic bags, wooden containers are flexible and easy to customize to fit the transport needs (Twede & Selke.2014). Their flexibility makes it possible to transport different kinds of goods. Wood is resistant to the corrosive environment and is unaffected by water and ice. Also, the fiber used in their manufacture insulates commodities against damage, protecting them against external damage (Jacobs, 2010). Unlike plastic bags, woods allow for a high stocking capacity and the hardwood used in their design durable, ensuring they last for years. Additionally, wood containers ensure full protection of commodities from damage because unlike plastic and paper containers; they cannot be bent therefore keeping commodities fresh.

Wood-based containers also have their disadvantages including their bulkiness; they take up a lot of space to stack a variety of goods. Wood containers are prone to fungal and bacterial contamination because they are sensitive to moisture which in extreme cases leads to leaking. Warping and leaking caused by exposure to moisture damages commodities in transport. Furthermore, treating wood to eliminate fungal infections can cause the contamination of products because some chemicals used to treat wood are harmful (Ducruet & Notteboom, 2012). Wood containers are also difficult to label compared to other shipping containers because of their hard surface. Wood-based containers do not also ensure sustainability because they cause deforestation. Cutting indigenous trees to construct wood designs for transportation can lead to the extinction of a variety of plant species if not done by environmental conservation rules. Increased use of wood in shipping may also contribute to global warming and environmental degradation. Therefore, the risks associated with transporting goods using wood-based containers causes a high insurance price which in turn costs consumers more than they would have incurred if a different type of shipping container was used.

Paper-based Containers

Paper-based shipping containers are one of the cheapest means of shipping compared to plastic and wood shipping containers. Cartons are the most used type of paper-based containers in the transport of perishable goods and fruits. They are less bulky compared to plastic based and wood containers and are easy to assemble and store as needed (Koskela, 2014). Paper-based containers are nonreusable and therefore cost effective because there no extra costs are incurred in transport. The environmental regulators check paper-based transporting containers resulting in minimal pollution (Silva, Ren, Sevegnani, Sevegnani, & Truzzi, 2013). Compared to wooden and plastic containers, paper-based containers do not require treatment with chemicals, therefore, ensuring the safety of consumers. The production of paper-based containers in bulk also minimizes transportation. However, plastic based containers also have a wide range of disadvantages.

The primary concern about the use of plastic bags is that they contribute more to environmental degradation compared to other means of shipping. Paper is manufactured from trees and therefore using them excessively is detrimental to the environment. Furthermore, they are not recyclable and therefore are produced in large amounts to sustain shipping needs which in turn leads to deforestation. It is also expensive to use nonreusable containers. Sometimes to avoid moisture and humidity damage, cartons are waxed which limits ventilation which in turn affects the freshness of goods. Wax also poses challenges in disposal causing a threat to the environment. They also have low resistance value compared to wood and plastic based containers which make them unable to regulate internal temperatures, a property which makes them ineffective in the transport of heat processed products (Twede & Selke, 2014).

Conclusion

In summation, the aspects to consider when choosing packaging materials are both quantifiable and qualitative. Some of these factors include the efficiency of the materials, cleanliness, and ergonomics. The best packaging solution depends on the nature of materials, the weather conditions during transport and cost. Therefore, as much as transport costs matter, it is important to decide on a transport design that suits the transportation requirements.

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  1. Ducruet, C., & Notteboom, T. (2012). The worldwide maritime network of container shipping: Spatial structure and regional dynamics. Global Networks, 12(3), 395-423.
  2. Jacobs, M. (2010). The box: How the shipping container made the world smaller and the world economy bigger. Enterprise & Society, 11(1), 191-193.
  3. Koskela, S., Dahlbo, H., Judl, J., Korhonen, M. R., & Niininen, M. (2014). Reusable plastic crate or a recyclable cardboard box? A comparison of two delivery systems. Journal of Cleaner Production, 69, 83-90.
  4. Silva, D. A. L., Ren, G. W. S., Sevegnani, G., Sevegnani, T. B., & Truzzi, O. M. S. (2013). Comparison of disposable and returnable packaging: A case study of reverse logistics in Brazil. Journal of Cleaner Production, 47, 377–387.
  5. Twede, D., Selke, S. E., Kamdem, D. P., & Shires, D. (2014). Cartons, crates and corrugated board: A handbook of paper and wood packaging technology. DEStech Publications, Inc.
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