Plastic vs Cardboard Packaging: The Pros and Cons | Part 1

Many businesses are deciding to use cardboard packaging rather than plastic packaging, especially with the new Plastic Tax that is now in effect. However, using cardboard instead can have its own environmental drawbacks.

For instance, cardboard production uses a lot of water and produces emissions. If the production team does not responsibly source it, it could contribute to deforestation. Additionally, recycling is challenging if it has been in contact with food or certain types of rubbish.

So, are cardboard and paper truly more environmentally friendly than plastic? Could bioplastics be the solution to all issues with sustainability? In the first instalment of “Plastic vs Cardboard Packaging: The Pros and Cons”, we look at the wider picture and weigh the benefits and drawbacks of plastic.


Did you know that plastics came about by accident in 1907? They gained popularity in the 1950s with the development of high-density polyethene. Plastics come from non-renewable fossil fuels. Plastic is a poor material regarding renewability and sustainability. Experts estimate that 4% of the world’s oil production is utilised as feedstock to create plastics.

The difficulty is that we have become so reliant on plastic in modern life. It may be hard to eliminate it due to its benefits.

Plastic Pros

Although they are harmful to the environment, some people may find it challenging to give up plastics for various reasons. These are the following:

  • Low costs: Plastic is the least expensive of all conventional packaging materials.
  • Excellent Durability: Plastics do not shatter or damage quickly and can tolerate falls or minor trauma without obtaining damage. This makes them a good choice for protection.
  • Longevity: Plastic takes a thousand years to degrade, so it can store for long periods without deterioration. However, although this is a benefit, it is also a disadvantage.
  • Lightweight: While compared to alternatives such as glass and wood, most plastic materials weigh nearly nothing. This is beneficial for reducing the footprint when carrying things packaged with plastics.

Plastic’s Con’s

Plastics give a lot of simple advantages for organisations, but this does not imply that we should overlook the cons.

Plastic production is estimated to be 381 million tonnes, with 5 trillion or more pieces of plastic contaminating the world’s seas. However, as more customers want recycled material in plastic, development in recycling plastics is accelerating. Other disadvantages include:

  • Manufacturing has a high carbon footprint: the production of plastic emits a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, polluting the environment.
  • Not properly recyclable: Although you can recycle some plastic, more than 91% of current plastic in the world has never been recycled.
  • Long-lasting: as noted in the benefits, it might take thousands of years to decay entirely, which is hazardous to the environment.
  • Pollutes the environment: Plastic pollutes the ecosystem by polluting the oceans and land, and animals can suffocate from it. Over time, sunshine breaks down the plastic molecules, which poison the soil, decreasing fertility. When plastic ultimately degrades, it might still leave microplastic residues, which are equally harmful to the environment.

Now that we have examined plastic and the environmental factors this type of packaging has on the world, we turn our focus to cardboard packaging.

In the next instalment of this series, we will look at why cardboard packaging might be the best packaging solution for your business, along with the pros and cons of the environmentally friendly material. 

If you’re looking for a Cardboard Box Printers in the UK, make sure to check out our website and get in touch. Someone from our team would be happy to take you through our packaging printing process.

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