Why use Corrugated Cardboard for Packaging?
To protect goods in transit and storage and distribution
The prime purpose of corrugated packaging is to protect goods in transit, storage and distribution, thus preventing waste through breakage, spoilage and contamination. The secondary purpose is to provide information to distributors and consumers about the product.
Benefits to using Corrugated Cardboard for Packaging
There are many benefits associated with using corrugated packaging, including environmental, economic and hygienic reasons.
The Environmental Case
Corrugated Packaging is a material made from a renewable, sustainable resource. It is made from paper-based corrugated board, which is non-toxic, easily recyclable and produced from recycled paper and sustainable forestry resources. The paper cycle will continue in perpetuity provided the harvest of timber does not exceed forest growth and that new trees are planted.
Any type of packaging is a cost to the supplier of goods and so everyone involved in the distribution of products looks for more cost-effective advantages. Corrugated packaging is delivering these in terms of tougher, lighter, single-piece packaging that eliminates secondary materials. Digital printing and innovative promotional displays for consumer facing applications help make a compelling case for using corrugated packaging.
The need for Hygiene
Packaging materials must meet a range of legal and regulatory requirements. Sometimes, packaging will need to come into direct contact with food and corrugated packaging is the ideal solution. This is because of the very high temperatures applied during the manufacturing process. In addition, each package is used for only one delivery.
Watch our videos on Corrugated Packaging
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- Corrugated Manufacturing: A brief history
Corrugated packaging has come a long way since 1871 when the material was first developed in the United States for wrapping fragile items such as bottles. American, Robert H. Thompson patented the machinery to produce corrugated board in 1882 and in doing so, is credited with becoming the grandfather of the modern Corrugated Industry.
Prior to the end of the 19th Century the first mechanically-driven single-facer (one liner) was in use in the UK, Germany and France, while the first slotted cases were manufactured in the UK in 1895.
Since those days of discovery in the late 19th Century, the corrugated industry has seen change on an epic scale, most notably through investments in advanced, automated manufacturing processes.
Between 1940 and 1980, production of corrugated packaging increased from 125,000 tonnes to over 1,500,000 tonnes. In 2017, 4.8 billion ksm of boxes were produced by UK industry worth £2.3 billion. It is the most widely used form of packaging, accounting for well over 30 per cent of all packaging materials. Over 70 per cent of all retailed goods, equivalent to £420 billion, rely on it.
Today, packaging manufacturers employ less than 12,000 people across the UK. This slimmer work force using automated plant and equipment now produces record quantities of corrugated board – over 4.5 billion square metres, or 2.5 million tonnes annually.
- The Strengths of Corrugated
The excellent rigidity and structural strength of corrugated board arise from its construction – the familiar fluting medium held between flat liners.
Over the decades, successive generations of improvement have established a range of products for different applications. Standard and non-standard categories of corrugated packaging are based on the type of flute, whether coarse, fine or extra fine and the number of fluted tiers, whether single, double or triple tiers.
The standard range includes the coarse ‘A’ and ‘C’ flute, fine ‘B’ and extra fine ‘E’ and ‘F’ flutes. The ‘B’ flute is the most widely used. It is very robust (difficult to crush) and has good compression strength. It is also compact, so less space is required during transit or storage. The ‘C’ flute is larger with greater compression strength but offers less crush resistance and requires more space.
There are many other options to choose from, including a recent development known as the ‘N’ flute, which is 48 per cent thinner than ‘E’ fluting and 20 per cent thinner than the ‘F’ flute. This ‘N’ flute looks set to open up a large potential market for more sophisticated packaging.
Corrugated packaging needs to be fit for purpose and below are just some of the tests that can be undertaken:
Name of Test What it does ‘Edge Crush’ and ‘Box Compression’ Determines the reliability of the packaging in stacking ‘Ring Crush’ and ‘Flat Crush’ Examines the structural qualities of the paper, board and complete box ‘Mullen Burst’ Measures resistance to pressure and tearing strength ‘Puncture Test’ Measures resistance to a sharp object ‘Slip Angle’ Measures the coefficient of friction to ensure surfaces are not too slippery, ensuring reliable stacking properties during transit
- Corrugated Packaging: Future
Thanks to ongoing technological advancements and a rich history of protecting goods in transit, storage and distribution, the future looks rosy for corrugated packaging.
Major investment in new technology and manufacturing plant is achieving new operating economies, which the industry passes on to its customers. Technology advances are complemented by 100 years’ experience of solving problems. A vast programme of research and development is leading to more economic products and more responsive customer service.
Technical advances during the last decade have produced weight savings of 20 per cent without impairing protective or structural qualities. And the drive for improved weight reductions continues. Advances in material science are leading to new types of structural products such as corrugated pallets that offer huge economic and other advantages.
Distribution issues of the Future
The packaging industry is focused on the distribution issues of the future, such as the development of intelligent packaging that is instantly identifiable, along with agreed standards for the sizes of the boxes, trays and other packaging to make products easy to stack, store and unpack. It is also introducing customer-led services supported by Just-in-Time and Efficient Consumer Response systems.
At the cutting edge of R&D, the industry is already exploring ways to make this vision a reality by effectively integrating smart chips into corrugated packaging. The goal is to create packages that are so easily identifiable and secure, they will make barcodes look primitive.
It is also the most versatile packaging. It can be printed or plain, have a smooth white outer surface for high quality graphic images and brown inside for improved economics.
High Quality Post Print (HQPP)
The latest technological developments have made high quality printing a practical proposition for extending brand images to transit packaging. Leading corrugated case manufacturers are able to offer low-cost, short print runs for special promotions. Now more information such as the use-by-date can be put into bar codes and adjusted more frequently. Other information such as assembly instructions can be printed on the box. Some manufacturers are already exploring other encryption possibilities such as secreting information in the glue or the board or adding smart chips. Improved identification of products assists with proof of ownership or to support issues of due diligence.
The corrugated packaging story has many chapters yet to be written.
- Corrugated Packaging Fact Sheets
- Packaging and the Internet
INCPEN guide to packaging for online sales
The Industry Council for Research on Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) has published a guide for companies involved with online sales. Packaging and the Internet: A guide to packaging goods for multi-channel delivery systems provides advice on designing packaging that will make these new delivery systems as resource-efficient as possible.
Conscious that many consumers now shop online for a wide range of goods, and that this presents different challenges, the guide has been developed with local authority Trading Standards Officers to give guidance to manufacturers and retailers on choosing appropriate packaging.
CPI is pleased to support the guide, which provides a good summary and clearly lays out the important role that packaging plays. A copy of the report can be downloaded here.
Or why not visit the website of The European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO).
Beyond the Box
Meet corrugated cardboard: The UK’s sustainable packaging choice
Beyond the Box. We bring together the latest news, ideas & inspiration, and industry experts to help you make informed packaging choices.
We’re a one-stop information hub to help you learn about the sustainable credentials of corrugated cardboard. We aim to inspire the nation to take action, and ultimately re-shape Britain’s approach to packaging.
Visit the website to find out why….