Packaging Materials Comparison: Merits and Demerits

Exporters, importers, and shipping companies should put into consideration a number of factors before deciding the type of containers to use for delivering goods. For instance, the strength of the goods being transported is a pertinent factor to bear in mind. If a product is quite robust, it definitely requires an equally strong delivery container in order to withstand the pressure.

The weight of the product is yet another important consideration. Containers made from relatively delicate materials cannot be used to transport heavy goods. Other factors to bear in mind include the prevalence of adverse weather conditions, exposure to moisture, and the value of the product.

A stronger shipping container should be chosen by an organization that thinks that additional protection is required for the product being transported or when the uncertainty level is high. When supply chain distribution is used to ship a firm’s product, choosing the most appropriate container is a crucial undertaking that cannot be ignored. The merits and demerits of each of these methods of shipping containers have been explored in this essay.

To begin with, shipping containers have been manufactured using wood for several centuries. Containers that are bound by wires, crates, pallet boxes, and pallets have been manufactured using wood as the main raw material. Similar to other materials used to make shipping containers, wood has its own merits and demerits. The first advantage of wood is that it can be used to make shipping containers using both power-driven tools and hands. The latter is used to resize or reshape wood in the process of making shipping containers.

In other words, wood provides the opportunity for container makers to devise various shapes and sizes for different compartments within a shipping container. This positive attribute of wood as a raw material for shipping containers makes it more appealing for artisans who prefer different designs and shapes.

The fact that wood can be reshaped using hand is yet another merit over other raw materials such as plastic and paper. Wood makes the process cheap or costs effective even in cases where power-driven tools are not available or costly. This implies that wood can be used to make shipping containers with the least possible investment.

Besides, wood is comparatively more durable than plastic or paper. It is crucial to mention that unlike paper or plastic, wood is made up of natural fiber components that are extremely strong. Plastics and paper are made up of inorganic materials that are weaker or more delicate than wood. Hence, wood can be used to make the strongest shipping containers for transporting heavy goods. It is also crucial to mention that wood cannot be corroded by either acidic or basic chemicals. Some paper materials can be corroded (charred) by chemicals even though plastics stand out as an alternative to wood when it comes to resistance towards corrosion.

The insulating capacity of wood is also a major advantage when used as a material for shipping containers. Wood contains a significant amount of trapped air owing to its high level of the fibrous structure. Needless to say, myriads of goods transported by ships are supposed to be well insulated in order to avoid the possibility of electric shock.

Since wood is the best insulator out of the three types of materials, it provides the much-needed insulated environment for metallic goods or products that can conduct electricity. Plastics are also good insulators even though they lack the tensile strength required in the transportation of heavy goods. On the same note, paper-based materials can offer adequate insulation in spite of the fact that weighty products may not be comfortably and securely transported using containers made from paper.

Both plastic and paper materials can slightly bend when used to make shipping containers. This might not be a desirable characteristic, especially when transporting goods that require surplus protection.

However, plastic and paper materials are less bulky than wood. This implies that minimal space is occupied by shipping containers made of plastic and paper. Extra space is taken up by wood. This is apparently a major disadvantage of using wood as a raw material for shipping containers. Besides, wood requires more storage space than either plastic or paper materials.

When it comes to moisture sensitivity, plastic-based shipping containers are apparently the best when compared to wood and paper. Any slight change in humidity may cause the warping of the wood. The latter refers to changing shape.

Warping may interfere with the actual size of a container. However, plastic shipping containers can never be affected by a change in atmospheric moisture content since they do not absorb water at all. Paper-based containers are also vulnerable to moist environments. Therefore, paper-based containers are not preferable for transporting goods that may be damaged by humid environments.

In terms of technology, paper, and plastic-based shipping containers are easier to build because the materials are already available in different sizes and shapes. The only task is to cut the materials into the desired lengths and join them together. In other words, it is relatively swift to build paper and plastic-based shipping containers.

Contrary to wood, there are no complex and technical skills required to construct paper and plastic-based shipping containers. In most instances, wood-based shipping containers are built and assembled using highly skilled laborers. This brings in the issue of cost. In spite of the durable nature of wood, it is quite costly to construct its shipping containers.

Plastic materials can be reused or recycled compared to wood. Hence, cost savings are readily achieved when plastic is used to make shipping containers. Not all paper-based materials can be recycled after use. On the other hand, wood cannot be used again or recycled. In the long run, wood does not save the cost of building containers. A firm’s packaging costs cannot be lowered when the wood is used as a packaging material.

On a final note, plastic and paper materials have been extensively used to build reusable shipping containers owing to the benefits associated with the same. The disadvantage of wood at this point is that it cannot be used to make reusable shipping containers.

As already mentioned, the bulky and solid-state nature of wood does not permit easy bending or flexibility of the destined shape. Although it is an advantage in one area, it works against the desire to build shipping containers that can be used for multiple purposes. Storage, handling, and shipping can be easily facilitated by plastic or paper-based containers owing to the following features:

  • Stackability-plastic and paper shipping containers may be adjusted to provide greater stacking height when both the upper and lower sections lock into one another.
  • Nestability Empty-plastic and paper-based materials allow swift storage of containers inside each other.
  • Collapsibility-when plastic and paper-based containers are collapsed downwards; they can be easily folded.

The above features cannot be realized when wooden materials are used to build shipping containers.

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