Manufacturing Packaging with Renewable vs. Non-Renewable Resources

September 24, 2020

A lot of packaging is either plastic based or natural fiber based. Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages as packaging. However, a big difference between the production of these materials is that fiber-based packaging is made from a renewable resource (often trees) whereas plastic is made from a non-renewable resource (crude oil or natural gas). Being renewable versus non-renewable impacts how the material is sourced and recycled, and how it naturally decomposes.

Supply & Production

Because plastic is made from a non-renewable resource, there is a limit to how much we can make. On the contrary, fiber-based materials, like paperboard, come from a crop and so can be sustainably farmed. We can continue to create an endless supply for the future.

Recyclability

Baled Scraps to be Recycled
Bailed Scraps to be Recycled

Most fiber-based products and many plastic products can be recycled. However, all types of paperboard, for example, can be recycled together, making recycling mixed paper products easy. Plastic products on the other hand, have to be separated out before recycling and local recycling centers don’t always collect every type of plastic. This makes recycling plastic products more difficult and results in recyclable plastics ending up in landfills.

Biodegradability

While most paperboard and plastic items are recyclable, a lot of them currently end up in landfills. Since fiber-based products are a crop from the soil and the raw material is less processed than plastic, they take only months to break down in a landfill. A plastic film container on the other hand, will take at least 20-30 years to break down, and this is only if the landfill is designed to biodegrade its contents. Styrofoam does not breakdown at all!

Between the two, packaging that is made from renewable resources proves to be more sustainable. It is better for the environment in the long term and helps prevent the negative impacts of packaging made from a non-renewable resource. Southern Champion Tray manufactures our products from renewable resources. See our wide selection of products here:

Bakery Packaging

Foodservice Packaging

Sources:

https://www.thoughtco.com/do-biodegradable-items-really-break-down-1204144

https://foodprint.org/reports/the-foodprint-of-food-packaging/#section_2

https://paperbox.org/renewable-recyclable-paperboard/

https://www.ecoenclose.com/Paper-versus-Plastic-and-Bio-Plastic-/

https://www.keepcasscountybeautiful.com/images/PDF/Recycling/how_long_does_it_take_garbage_to_decompose.pdf

https://twosidesna.org/paper-production-supports-sustainable-forest-management/