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Corrugated Shipping Containers vs Pallets

Shipping packaging and containers for product protection and recyclability of paper

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Corrugated board for recyclable packaging and containers

Corrugated Board and Box Conversion

More than 1,300 manufacturing plants in the United States and Canada produce corrugated board and box conversion.

Corrugated paper, made from trees, a natural, renewable resource, is sometimes manufactured using high percentages of recycled fiber, and recycling is mandated by some agencies such as California's Integrated Waste Management Board.

Corrugated stock is often reused multiple times, and is recycled more than any other packaging material used today. Cradle-to-cradle environmental stewardship is promoted in much of the corrugated production industry, from management of renewable resources, to responsible manufacturing processes, to widespread recovery and recycling.

Corrugated Container Recycling Statistics

Led by nearly 11 percent net exports increase, recovery of old corrugated containers (OCC) rose 2.0 percent in 2006 to 25.2 million tons. During the same time, U.S. containerboard consumption rose 1.7 percent. As a result, the OCC recovery rate increased to 76.4 percent in 2006.

Testing labs for voluntary repulping and recycling standards are provided on the Corrugated Containers Council website.

Old corrugated containers (OCC) are turned into:

  • Containerboard (60.2 percent)
  • Recycled paperboard (15.7 percent)
  • Tissue (less than 1 percent)
  • Packaging and industrial converting (1.6 percent)
  • Exports to other countries (20.7 percent)
  • Other (1.2 percent)

Product Characteristics of Corrugated Board

Corrugated cardboard is made of paper and has an arched layer, called "fluting," between smooth sheets, called "liner." The corrugated cardboard most commonly used to make boxes has one layer of fluting between two smooth sheets. But there are many types of corrugated available,

Corrugated is a durable, versatile, innovative and lightweight material used for custom-manufactured shipping containers, packaging and point-of-purchase displays, as well as non-traditional applications ranging from pallets, children's toys and furniture.

Sustainable Packaging Metrics

Some of the characteristics and metrics used to consider viability of packaging materials include:

  • Payload efficiency that affects shipping density in the truck or other carrier.
  • Distance traveled can affect costs due to the weight of the materials used for packaging
  • Container cost must be considered in any supply-chain cost analysis.
  • Competitive claims such as with RPC (returnable plastic containers) include washing costs and sanitizing and backhaul costs as well as length of life and replacement costs -- and recyling or disposal costs. Other competitive metrics include cycle time and scheduling, loss and theft rates.

Plastic containers are reusable more than corrugated, but they also require petroleum materials, and plastics enter the waste stream and cause long term problems. Corrugated papers are readily recyclable if they are not wax coated. Wax coatings cannot be recycled because they do not dissolve in water, so they create problems in the repulping process. The industry has worked diligently to develop recyclable alternatives, many of which are now becoming commercially available.

The corrugated industry developed a new recyclability standard that allows these alternatives to be tested, proven and certified recyclable if they pass the required protocol. Certified materials should be marked with one of these symbols:

Corrugated recyclable label

Competitive Technologies for Shipping Containers and Packaging

Recently, a new packaging approach, the returnable plastic crate, or RPC, has entered the shipping container niche to compete with corrugated boxes.

Full Disclosure Comparison Software

The Full Disclosure software package was developed by the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) and the Fibre Box Association(FBA) to provide package buyers and users with an objective and systematic analysis of shipping container alternatives. The Full Disclosure software provides corrugated box users with an objective comparison of RPCs and corrugated containers without exaggeration or incomplete information.

Contact your box supplier to arrange for Full Disclosure cost analysis, or call the Fibre Box Association (317) 805-4750.

Timeline of Paper's History

The Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA) provides a nice timeline of paper REFERENCE:

Corrugated Packaging Resources

Fibre Box Association (FBA)

Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA)

Association of Independent Corrugated Converters (AICC)

International Corrugated Case Association (ICCA)

International Corrugated Packaging Foundation (ICPF)

International Safe Transit Association (ISTA)

American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA)

Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP)

Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI)

Global Trade Association of Automatic Identification and Data Capture Industry (AIM)

Canadian Corrugated Case Association (CCCA)

For more information on recycling visit: EPA's Wastewise site

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| packaging | shipping | product development |


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