Retail Packaging

The emerging controversial view on whether to use paper-based shipping container, wood-based shipping container, or plastic-based shipping container in the various supply chains in the shipment of commodities has led to a lot of different views on which method is appropriate. The debate on the three packaging items considers critical analysis of both, their advantages and disadvantages.

Paper-Based Shipping Container

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The most common types of paper materials that are widely used in packaging of different commodities vary in strength depending on the features of the items or commodities to be packed. The most common types of paper-based containers are: wrapping cartons, bags, and corrugated papers, among other types. Subsequently, the use of paper-based packaging is a topic which has critically compared its advantages and disadvantages over wooden and plastic-based shipping containers.

A paper-based package is significant in most supply chains since it ensures that the shipping container space is fully utilized. Very many paper cartons can be redesigned to the shapes of various containers thereby allowing most cartons to be packed in one container. Subsequently, when the shipping container packaging space is optimized with as many cartons as possible, it enables the importer to save a lot on the transportation cost by 20% as most of the cartons can be transported in a single fright. Cost reduction is so significant in any kind of transportation; therefore, it is advantageous to use paper-based containers which are cheaper in shipping of many cartons (Levesque, 2011). In contrast, the major disadvantage of the use of recycled paper containers is that they may contain some toxic substances that may be harmful when used as containers for foodstuffs (Sun, 2012).

Environmental friendly shipment is taken into account by the use of paper packaging through the recycling option. The cartons can be recycled in different designs which reduce wastage that would otherwise be dumped making the environment untidy. Consistently, there is a great reduction in lumbering as demand for raw materials from trees is minimal since the only raw material for manufacturing papers is tree trunks. Moreover, ocean transportation where paper cartons are commonly used in packaging has significantly led to a reduction in carbon emissions compared to road transport which contributes to 50% of all carbon emissions in the transport industry as the sector is significant in supplies, and distribution is advancing to more environmental friendly operations (Levesque, 2011). However, the expansive use of maritime shipping is being restricted to the use of dry ports alone which are a barrier to the development of an environmental friendly and cheap transport system which would be achieved by the use of ocean transport (Brebbla, 2012).

Wood-Based Shipping Container

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Wooden boxes in form of pellets and crates are the most commonly used containers in shipping of goods, according to the report by U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the year 2009, which declared the use of wood-based shipping containers as number one among paper and plastic containers, the report also reveals that about 93% of all shipments in the USA alone are in wooden containers with over a million in form of pellets and crates in use. The major advantage that wooden-based containers have is that it is stronger than paper- and plastic-based containers. However, there are demerits that have been observed in the use of wooden-based shipping containers, a supply chain that involves movement of wooden boxes across states and countries has led to widespread infestation of plant pests, such as Asian long horn beetle and ash borer, which commonly infest wood and are spread in the supply cycle. Another disadvantage in the use of wood-based shipping containers is that it has led to increase in illegal login of wood as the demand increases, in addition, wooden pellets and crates once worn out cannot be recycled as in the case of paper-based containers (Beveridge & Diamond, 2009).

Plastic-Based Shipping Containers

Recently, plastic-based containers have been an option of shipment replacing wood-based containers due to several advantages they have over wood-based containers and paper-based containers. The first advantage that the use of plastics has over the wood-based containers is that the former has been proven by the APHIS as a pest-free substitute to the later since plastics can never be infested by any pest that might be imported in the supply chain, while wood is of great threat to infestation and distribution of pest. Another major advantage that the use of plastics has over paper- and wood-based shipping containers in the supply chain is that it can be easily fixed with tracking devices, such as radio frequency identification tags which help in the reduction of loss of consignments in fright and in the process of shipment. However, the use of plastics has some significant disadvantages that have raised eyebrows in its usage; plastic containers are very expensive as compared to wood- and paper-based containers thereby limiting its widespread usage. Additionally, just like containers made of recycled papers, plastic containers may contain toxic substances that may turn to be harmful if they are used for food products (Beveridge & Diamond, 2009).


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Until today elaborate answers on which method of container shipping type to use is still a critical debate on whether to use paper-based, wood-based, or plastic-based shipping container since each of them have both, advantages and disadvantages for use in an entire supply chain. The major advantages of using paper-based container are that it is recycled and maximizes the space utilization though recycled materials may contain toxic substances. Wood-based, which is widely used, is stronger but may lead to the spread of insect infestation to plants and encourages illegal logging which is environmental unfriendly. Lastly, the plastic-based containers are recommended over wood-based containers since they are free from insect infestations and can be fitted with tracking devices even though they are very expensive and may not be appropriate in keeping foodstuffs as they may contain toxic substances.

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