Corrugated Plastic vs Corrugated Paper... in 2 minutes... (5 if you're a slow reader)

Paper or plastic?? These days, answering that question in any store will cost you 10 cents. In the world of boxes, answering that same question could cost you 7-10 times more depending on the material you choose. As paper boxes (and their competitive prices) are almost ubiquitous today, people are shocked when they see pricing for the same box in corrugated plastic. 7-10 times more!?!? WHAT THE HECK!

The fact is, in most applications corrugated paper works great. It’s available in thicknesses ranging from E flute (.07”) all the way up to Game of Thrones Ice wall thick. With the many coating options available, it has become a very diverse material.

I know what you’re thinking… Why are you singing corrugated papers praises…? Don’t you guys convert corrugated plastic? WE DOOOO! However, we can’t be honest without acknowledging corrugated papers place in the world.

Corrugated plastic has a place as well… though it’s a little more niche. It’s exemplary when durability, longevity, cleanliness, temperature swings or solvents and liquid exposure is a concern.

For example­, the United States Postal Service uses corrugated plastic bins and mail totes because of the long-term durability. In the 90’s, Dole foods switched to corrugated plastic asparagus boxes to address recycling concerns surrounding wax coated corrugated. 20 years later, they realize that they handle the cold storage better than the original boxes. REAL D went with corrugated plastic collection bins for their 3D glasses since paper corrugated (even coated) couldn’t stand up to daily abuse in movie theaters.

Today, thousands of different products including medical vials and components, ESD sensitive electronic components, automotive parts, and products that require cold storage (medical and food), are all stored, shipped, and handled using corrugated plastic. Guess it’s a pretty big niche!

Now hold on a minute... What about the 7-10 times cost increase over paper? Well that’s an interesting one… Washington State Liquor Control Boardhad that same issue.  When they started monitoring the tote usage, they stopped counting at 40 times the use of the previously purchased heavy duty, solid fiber totes.  Quite possibly the implementing of corrugated plastic totes for USPS and WSLCB could be the only government programs that actually saved money over the life of the project. When you do the math, a reusable/returnable container costing 10 times its standard corrugated competition, lasting 40 times longer is actually a 75% reduction in actual cost.  A 75% reduction in cost is something you can get a raise for!  Of course, it must be a reusable, returnable application, otherwise it is just expensive packaging. How do you like them apples… or asparagus?? 

So, there you have it… a brief (2 minute) look at corrugated plastic and its place in the world.