Polystyrene or cardboard packaging? In the industrial environment, efficient product protection is very important, but it also needs to be cost effective. Therefore, the packaging must be shock absorbent, preserve the product, facilitate handling, be cost-effective and eco?responsible. These are a lot of aspects to consider; this is why you have to make the right choice to suit your needs. Let’s see how!
Packaging fulfills multiple needs, but its three main purposes are protection, thermal insulation and ease of handling. Indeed, the merchandise is subjected to mechanical and thermal stresses as well as moisture during transport and storage. Packaging can also contribute to reduce costs associated to breakage, storage or deterioration. By opting for diverse and versatile packaging materials at a reasonable cost, you could get commercial benefits.
Since expanded polystyrene (EPS) or cardboard can be used for some purposes, it is essential to define the issue related to your packaging. It will be thereby possible to explore the solutions offered by these two materials, without neglecting their environmental impact. Learn more on this topic!
Defining the Packaging Problem
Regardless of the packaging’s nature, EPS moulded elements are used in many diverse fields and different ways. For some applications, these elements may already be considered as critical. For example, we can think about insulating boxes for organs or medication storage requiring to be held to a certain temperature. Polystyrene also protects objects such as furniture or other fragile equipment such as TVs. This type of packaging is found in most of your purchases!
On the other hand polystyrene can face competition in some cases: cardboard. A study analyzed different packaging materials and allowed us to draw conclusions, helping solve the packaging type selection issue and optimize the chosen solution. Therefore, we will be able to bring out the ecological characteristics in order to support decision-making when faced with this dilemma: cardboard or EPS?
Which material is more harmful to environment? A comparative study has been conducted by BASF to demystify this issue. Five main conclusions emerged:
1. EPS requires six times less energy than to produce cardboard.
2. Critical air volume shows lower total air pollution for EPS.
3. 20 times more EPS than cardboard would have to be manufactured to reach the same water pollution level.
4. Lower EPS’s global warming potential (GWP) than cardboard.
5. Waste volume of EPS is higher than cardboard; however recycling technologies are quickly bringing these numbers down.
To describe the environmental impact of packaging materials as accurately as possible, the study used the life cycle balance model. The effects on environment have been assessed using the following five parameters:
Critical air volume
Critical water volume
Potential for atmosphere global warming (GWP value)
The Conclusion: Cardboard or EPS?
In the light of this information, expanded polystyrene can be a good choice for its positive environmental impact as much as its thermal insulation and simple handling properties. However, there is no reason to ban cardboard: it actually has a lot of advantages. Have you ever thought about combining cardboard and EPS? Indeed, the combination of both can increase stacking capacity and offer a better protection while reducing the packaging! Would you like to reduce your over packaging costs? Contact us to find out how!
Source : Kunststoff « PSE et carton ondulé. Bilan du cycle de vie » par BASF, 10836 Berlin, 1992, 9 pages.