Designing retail packaging is an important step for any product. One of the first decisions to be made is whether to use paper or plastic as the packaging material. There are advantages and disadvantages to both materials. There are a number of factors that come into play when making a decision over which material to use. These factors include protection, visibility, added value, added cost, and environmental or legal issues. How paper and plastic fare when these factors are considered can help make the decision for packaging material much simpler.
The protection factor refers to how well the packaging protects the product from damage and from spoilage. Plastic packaging has an advantage here, since it can create a seal around the product and keep it from outside contaminants more securely. Paper packaging is easier to damage by tearing or water damage. Visibility as a factor refers to the packaging’s ability to catch the consumer eye. Pleasing designs can be made with both paper and plastic packaging, however plastic packaging may catch the eye quicker. Added value is when the packaging enhances the product. For example, when the cardboard packaging on a microwaveable pizza makes it easier to cook by serving as its cooking dish. Added cost is the cost involved in packaging and paper wins out here too, being cheaper to produce than plastic. The final factor, environmental and legal issues, is an important factor in the paper vs. plastic debate today. Paper packaging is easily recyclable, however harvesting of raw materials causes damage to the environment, pollution, and requires a large amount of energy. Paper is more easily disposed of, however this perpetuates the waste problem. Plastic packaging is chemically resistant, durable, and easy to color. But the compound in plastic is indestructible and harmful to our health and the environment when absorbed. In addition, the use of oil to produce plastic packaging depletes the limited amount of oil available as an energy source. (Europen, 2009)
Europen. (2009). Packaging in the Sustainability Agenda:A Guide for Corporate Decision Makers. Brussels: ECR.