New Analysis on the Greenhouse Gas Balance of Corrugated Board Packaging

A new analysis by the bifa Umweltinstitut in collaboration with the Papiertechnische Stiftung (Paper-Technical Foundation) (PTS) comparing different mail order packaging has concluded : corrugated cardboard boxes perform better than reusable plastic boxes due to their lower weight.

According to a recent analysis by PTS in cooperation with the bifa Environmental Institute, the fiber-based variant has the advantage in a comparison of shipping bags made of corrugated board base paper and reusable envelopes. In the overall view, product protection should also be given high priority from the point of view of climate protection, emphasizes the Verband der Wellpappen-Industrie e. V. (Association of the Corrugated Board Industry) (VDW), which commissioned the analysis in collaboration with the Verband Die Papierindustrie e. V. (German Association of the Paper Industry). This is because the ecological footprint of the transported goods is usually many times greater than that of the packaging.

„Anyone who sends goods on their way in unsuitable packaging risks transport damage and customer complaints – and each of these elaborately produced but then unused products means an avoidable environmental impact,“ explains VDW Managing Director Dr. Oliver Wolfrum. Packaging that is best suited to the goods being transported, therefore, also makes an important contribution to climate protection. In the mail order business, 90 percent of the packaging used is made of corrugated board. Important reasons for this also emerge from the bifa analysis: Solutions made of corrugated board can be easily adapted to the size and weight of the products to be transported. Thanks to the corrugated construction that gives it its name, the goods being transported are also particularly well protected against the effects of impact and pressure. At the same time, a corrugated board box weighs only a relatively small amount. This is why the greenhouse gas balance of heavy reusable boxes, which would have to be used for a comparable protective effect, is also measurably less favorable, according to the bifa Environmental Institute. When comparing a corrugated cardboard box with a reusable envelope, on the other hand, the plastic envelope would indeed perform better, according to bifa. „However, this approach is impractical, because envelopes are only suitable for certain goods and are used accordingly. More realistic, on the other hand, is the comparison, also drawn by bifa, between a shipping bag made of corrugated board base paper and a reusable variant made of plastic,“ explains Wolfrum. „And in this consideration, the greenhouse gas balance of the fiber-based paper envelope then comes out on top again.“

The new analysis is also of interest for upcoming environmental policy decisions, the VDW managing director emphasizes. „In their coalition agreement, the SPD, the Green Party, and the FDP have emphasized, among other things, the importance of recyclable products and closed material cycles – the corrugated board industry already exemplifies these aspects today. The new results of the bifa analysis very clearly underline the fact that decisions should always be made with a sense of proportion as to which packaging solution will benefit climate protection the most,“ says Wolfrum. In the case of reusable concepts, in addition to the higher weight in certain cases, the environmental impact of additional transport and cleaning processes must always be considered.