Corrugated Packaging vs. Other Types of Packaging: Pros and Cons

Packaging is vital in protecting products during storage, shipment, and sale. The type of packaging used can impact everything from product safety to branding to sustainability. One of the most ubiquitous types of packaging is corrugated packaging, which refers to cardboard boxes and shipping containers made from corrugated paper. But corrugated is one of many packaging options on the market. This article will explore the pros and cons of corrugated packaging compared to other materials like plastic, glass, and metal. Read on to learn key considerations when selecting packaging for your unique needs.

What is Corrugated Packaging?

Corrugated packaging comprises ridges and grooves, giving the material its recognizable, rippled texture. The corrugated board contains an inner fluted layer sandwiched between two flat paper or cardboard facings. This layered construction makes corrugated a powerful, lightweight, customizable packaging solution suitable for all applications.

From simple cardboard boxes to complex die-cut containers, corrugated materials can be formed into any shape or size. Corrugated has various strengths and thicknesses, with single, double, and triple wall options. The ribs and flutes provide cushioning and impact absorption, while the facings lend printability, style, and additional protection. No wonder corrugated packaging is widespread across many industries, from e-commerce fulfillment to food delivery.

Types of Other Packaging Materials

While corrugated cardboard reigns supreme for many packaging needs, it’s not the only material on the market. Some other commonly used packaging options include:

Plastic: Available in flexible films and rigid forms, plastic offers transparency for product visibility, heat resistance, and barrier properties for preservation. However, most plastics pose recycling challenges.

Glass: With its glossy, impenetrable surface, glass can beautifully showcase products. But it tends to be heavy and fragile.

Metal: From steel drums to aluminum cans and foil pouches, the metal keeps out oxygen, moisture, and contaminants over long durations. However, metal is non-renewable and energy-intensive to produce.

Paperboard: Sometimes called paper-based packaging, paperboard includes materials like folding cartons and food service boxes. It provides graphics and insulation at a low cost but has limited durability.

Let’s analyze how corrugated cardboard stacks up against these other packaging options.

Source: Image by Freepik

Pros of Corrugated Packaging

Corrugated materials offer many beneficial properties that make them advantageous over other types of packaging in a variety of situations:

Lightweight: As outlined on the Corrugated Cardboard information page, corrugated packaging is lightweight thanks to its paper-based construction. This keeps shipping costs low by reducing fuel consumption. The lighter weight also makes boxes easier for workers to handle and stack.

Cost-effective: Simple cardboard boxes are very budget-friendly, especially compared to packaging alternatives like plastic, glass, or metal. Even custom corrugated solutions with unique features remain economical options for many applications. This Packaging 101 article further discusses affordable packaging choices.

Recyclable: Another significant advantage of corrugated cardboard is its sustainability. Corrugated packaging has high recycling rates compared to other materials. Recycling cardboard saves resources and diverts waste from landfills.

Protection & Cushioning: Corrugated materials provide exceptional product protection and shock absorption with their layered construction and ribbed flutes compressible structure cushions items from impacts during transit and handling.

Stacking Strength: Corrugated’s vertical columns lend impressive stacking strength to properly designed boxes. This allows stable palleting for easy, space-efficient storage and transport in trucks, warehouses, retail shelves, and more.

For all these reasons, corrugated packaging offers outstanding performance across applications from e-commerce shipments to food takeout containers and beyond.

Source: Image by Freepik

Cons of Corrugated Packaging

However, corrugated materials also come with some disadvantages to consider:

Moisture Sensitivity: While advances in wax coatings and moisture-resistant adhesives continue to improve water resistance, cardboard packaging remains vulnerable to humidity compared to plastic or metal. Corrugated containers can lose integrity and strength when wet without proper moisture protection.

Compression Limitations: Although the fluted structure provides cushioning against shocks, corrugated packaging has limited resistance to forces from sustained heavy loads or stacking compared to sturdier materials like wood or plastic crates. Improper box design or stacking can result in crushed packages.

Susceptibility to Damage: If handled roughly or designed poorly, corrugated containers can scuff, dent, and tear, compromising strength and appearance. While impacts often leave plastic or metal packaging unscathed, they may damage cardboard.

So, while corrugated shines for many applications, it does have some downsides regarding durability and performance limitations in extreme moisture or pressure situations.

Source: Image by fabrikasimf on Freepik

Pros of Other Types of Packaging

Beyond corrugated board, other packaging materials offer their own set of advantages:


  • Reusable and recyclable (for certain types)
  • Transparency for visibility
  • Barrier against gases and moisture
  • Withstands harsh conditions


  • Impermeable surface
  • Can be sterilized at high temperatures
  • Reusable
  • Visually appealing for product display


  • Extreme durability
  • Impenetrable to light, gases, and contaminants
  • Resealable and reportable
  • Reusable
  • Recyclable


The choice ultimately comes down to selecting the optimal packaging materials and designs to meet specific product requirements.

Cons of Other Types of Packaging

Yet alternative packaging materials also have disadvantages:


  • Not biodegradable
  • Recyclability issues
  • Petroleum-based
  • Brittle when frozen


  • Heavy
  • Breakable
  • Energy-intensive production
  • Heavier to transport


  • High raw material costs
  • Non-renewable resource
  • Reflects microwaves poorly
  • Corrosion potential


  • Vulnerable to moisture
  • Weak stacking strength
  • Low durability for heavy items or rugged handling

So, in situations where durability trumps visual appeal or where lightweight and sustainability are priorities, plastic, glass, or metal containers may fall short while corrugated excel.

Comparison of Corrugated Packaging and Other Types

When selecting packaging materials, it’s essential to balance strengths against limitations. Corrugated cardboard provides excellent protection, efficiency, and sustainability at affordable cost, positioning it as a staple packaging solution for diverse industries. Brands seeking premium presentation may opt for decorative paperboard cartons or sleek glass jars. Products requiring impermeability for long-term preservation often call for plastic or metal barrier packaging.

But for many everyday applications, plain corrugated boxes and shipping containers outperform plastic bags and crates that add expense without significantly improving product security or presentation. For example, the Corrugated Shipping Boxes page shows economical containers meeting most transportation needs.

Meanwhile, plastic film cannot match the cushioning ability of ribbed corrugated materials that better shield fragile goods from impacts. Yet, no single packaging material universally excels across all criteria. Selecting optimum packaging means balancing priorities like cost, performance, presentation, sustainability, and processing requirements. The importance of each factor depends on the specific application.

Considerations for Choosing Packaging

Numerous variables influence which packaging materials best suit given projects. Considerations include:

Product Characteristics

Packaging must align with product specifications, including size, weight, shape fragility, respiration requirements, expected shelf life, and resistance to elements like moisture, oxygen, or contaminants. For example, produce calls for breathable containers, while snacks need moisture barriers.

Processing & Production Considerations

The packaging production process should integrate efficiently into manufacturing operations and workflows. Packaging line capabilities factor into material selection.

Shipping Conditions

Transit mode expected handling forces, stacking patterns, climate exposure, and more help determine protective strength, sealing, and cushioning needs.

Presentation & Marketing Goals

Beyond safeguarding contents, packaging impacts branding via shapes, colors, labeling opportunities, visibility, unboxing experience, and more. Elements like custom printing, decorative coatings and finishes, windows, envelopes, and inserts can enhance presentation while lending tangible value through information, convenience, and engagement.

For example, packages can incorporate tabs, windows, and custom prints for improved visibility, while coatings and laminates add striking visual and tactile properties. Tear strips, perforations, and specialty opening features streamline access while punctuating the reveal.

Designed elements like partitions, trays, envelopes, and other inserts to organize contents while providing guidance. Supplementary items like brochures, coupons, and product samples help cross-sell offerings. With strategic packaging solutions, brands can elevate unboxing from a routine task to an engaging brand experience.

Sustainability Targets

Eco-conscious brands prioritize renewable, recyclable materials with minimal waste. Corrugated boxes excel in sustainability compared to plastics and metal.

Cost Considerations

Packaging represents a significant expense, so cost models help assess return on investment versus alternative material and design choices. Durability gains from thick plastic shells can outweigh the sustainability advantages of corrugated containers.


Industry-specific machinery standards and shipping regulations may dictate packaging parameters like dimensional tolerances, marking labels, or containment proofs.

When selecting packaging, brands must balance all these interrelated factors against application requirements and corporate objectives.

Source: Image by Freepik


Corrugated shipping containers offer outstanding versatility for safe and sustainable packaging at an economical cost. From humble paperboard boxes to robust corrugated cases, cardboard packaging provides essential protection, efficiency, and branding potential. Optimized container designs deliver cushioning, strength stacking endurance, and display presentation.

However, plastic and glass provide transparency, while metal excels at preservation. For premium finish or fragility, brands sometimes select costlier rigid packaging. Ultimately, the ideal packaging balances durability, performance, presentation, processing, cost, and sustainability needs in each unique situation. Analyzing product characteristics and distribution realities reveals optimum materials and container constructions to transport goods while conveying brand values safely. With mindful material assessments and purposeful designs, corrugated packaging can elevate operations across functions.

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