Plastics in Packaging
With all the hype about going green, plastic packaging seems to still justify its existence because of its ease of use and lower costs.
Over the holidays, my wife wanted to surprise me with a pair of cowboy boots, similar to the pair I wore when we first dated, some 27 years ago.
When I unwrapped my present, the first thing I noticed was that the boots were shipped, not in a master corrugated carton protecting the original packaging, but instead protected in polyethylene shrink film.
The boots were packed in a 200 test carton, printed sharply with four color artwork. To ship the carton with just a UPS label affixed to it and some packaging tape, to keep it closed, would have destroyed the marketing goals of the manufacturer and marred the carton. But to place the carton in a master shipper, the packer would have had to most likely add some form of void fill.
So while those who think that utilizing shrink film will increase the "carbon footprint", the truth is surprising.
Utilizing polyethylene in this example works in many ways. First, the savings over using a master shipper resulted in a 60% savings in packaging costs, by not using an additional carton, void fill, and tape. Next, is the cost of manufacturing. It is well known that making plastic film is far cheaper to produce, using much less energy and water in the process, as compared to making a corrugated carton. This process alone reduces the carbon footprint. Lastly, since the size of the shipment was not increased, less space was needed allowing the shipping company more room to add more packages. Again, lowering the carbon footprint.
The only negative is the actual shrink tunnel which uses large amounts of electricity to heat the film, which is needed to actually shrink.the film.
The packaging industry is working to perfect plastic packaging that will break down in a landfill. Someday, we will have a low cost product that will dissolve into the earth with no side effects. But for now, we still have an alternate product that can be recycled and if it were to make its way to a landfill, would not leach into the environment with toxic effects.