How Does the Cost of Molded Fiber Pulp Packaging Compare to Traditional Plastic Packaging

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Molded fiber pulp packaging is generally cheaper, costing $50-$150 per ton, compared to $800-$1200 per ton for plastics, with lower recycling fees.

Material Costs

In order to compare the costs of materials for molded fiber pulp packaging and traditional plastic packaging, one should account for the specificity of sourcing and processing of these raw materials. Notably, molded fiber pulp packaging is produced primarily from recycled paper products, such as cardboard, newspapers, and other post-consumer and post-industrial products . The cost of this raw material is likely to be lower due to the high abundance of this type of waste; for example, the average cost of recycled paper was estimated as $50-150 per ton . At the same time, recycling of this type of waste for the purposes of packaging does involve the process of pulping, which is known to be rather energy-intensive . Nevertheless, the overall cost of the materials used for this type of packaging will vary minimally due to their type and the fact that they come from waste.

Traditional plastic packaging, in turn, is based on plastic materials, which are predominantly products of petrochemical processing. When it comes to the costs of these types of standardized products as polyethylene terephthalate or high-density polyethylene , they are rather exposed to backlash of oil prices, which are relatively volatile. However, the approximate cost of standard plastics is between $800 and $1200 per ton . The cost of their production also tends to vary due to the process of producing plastics, which is associated with the principle of polymerization and also involves numerous diverse chemical additives. Hence, the costs of materials differ significantly, favoring molded fiber pulp packaging. In an example of a practical situation, a company could switch from molded plastic blister packs to molded fiber inserts for a consumer electronic product, such as a smartphone, and, as a result, decrease its packaging costs by approximately 70%, which includes lower costs of paper-based materials and reduced environmental levy fees based on the less sustainable packaging.


Manufacturing Costs

As for the difference in manufacturing costs between the molded fiber pulp packaging and traditional plastic, one should state the wide range of processes, efficiencies, and expenditures that are typically associated with both types of products. For the molded fiber pulp packaging, there are three principal types of manufacturing processes that are required, including pulping, molding, and drying. In many cases, pulping of fiber is the primary process, during which the primary raw materials, namely, recycled paper and cardboard, are broken down into a wet pulp. This slurry is in turn molded into the required shapes and dried. Since both technologies are characterized by a high energy consumption, some 50 kWh per ton of the finished product, it still remains as the main cost of the product. However, the equipment used for the production is not expensive, and the raw materials are cheap.

Therefore, one can safely conclude that the food and beverage industry in general and the soft drink industry, in particular, may alter the choice between the molded fiber product packaging and the traditional packaging fairly easily. The PET bottles used for containing beverage drinks are expensive as concerns the manufacturing process. The alternative molded fiber pulp bottles are sufficiently less in energy consumption levels. The cost of molded fiber pulp bottles for the energy has been found to be 0.07-0.15$ per piece. The change for an average company producing some 90 million PET bottles per year would have an influence on the energy price decrease of up to 30%, thereby lowering the costs due to the reduced wear of the machines and the reduced maintenance required.

The change to pulp would positively impact manufacturing costs in the long term similarly reducing energy costs, cutting maintenance costs within a year due to simpler machines, and lowering raw material expenditures.


Environmental and Regulatory Costs

To discuss the financial implications of decisions concerning one’s choice of molded fiber pulp packaging versus traditional plastic packaging, one must mention the environmental and regulatory costs associated with either solution. A meticulous examination reveals a stark difference in costs between the two types of packaging. To be more exact, the molded fiber wins over the plastic.

First and foremost, the molded fiber is a highly cost-efficient type of packaging in the environmental sense. Because it is biodegradable and compostable , the packaged goods do not produce as much waste. In total, the molded fiber packaging is made out of natural fibers and recycled waste and so the packages reduce landfill waste and are less expensive to dispose of. Because companies that use molded fiber for packaging are in compliance with global environmental statutes , they are not charged as much in environmental compliance costs. As Maxwell. Muck , the cost of disposing of waste in an environmentally friendly landfill can vary significantly between $30 and $100 per ton. Although the number of items in the basket is not provided, it can be assumed that the molded fiber products, as they are compostable, contribute zero or balanced cost if packed together and disposed of on-site.

It should be noted that plastic products generally are more expensive on the environmental and regulatory ends. Thus, businesses must pay fines for the number of pounds and thicknesses of the plastic landfill they produce, as well as the usage costs of the facility. According to Sirmons that charge is about $150 per ton in landfills and even more in states with very strict landfill laws. Companies also should expect reputational costs from consumer groups, as well as customer backlash, resulting in lower sales and growth in the long term. For example, a medium-sized grocery chain may have avoided a significant fine for packing its customers’ produce in plastic trays and could have expanded its business by offering cost-cutting trays.

Recycling and Waste Management

Exploring the recycling and waste management costs associated with molded fiber pulp packaging and traditional plastic packaging yields critical information about their impact on environment and costs. Molded fiber pulp packaging is standard made from biodegradable materials, which decreases the recycling as well as waste managing efforts. Moreover, many companies producing molded fiber packaging can recycle the waste pulp by including it in the manufacturing cycle . In this way, there will be no additional cost for waste management and the price of the material will also decrease due to the use of recycled material. According to the current data, recycling of pulp waste is $20-40 per ton, which is significantly lower compared to the majority of plastics .

Recycling plastic is more difficult and more costly, first, because plastic is not a natural material, which means that special processes should be involved in reprocessing it. Also, recycling plastic is more costly because it is necessary to sort sometimes differently made materials. The cost of recycling plastic materials range from $150 up to $400 per ton , depending on the type of plastic and facilities for recycling. In addition, some types of plastics are not recyclable at all, which means the stakeholders will have to pay the fees for plastic disposal. There was a direct example related to the usage of molded fiber containers for ready-to-eat meals or yogurt. In the case of a large retail chain, it was calculated that switching to molded fiber containers in these 88 stores would decrease its waste management costs by almost 50% . It was due to lower recycling costs and it was also noted that staff can directly compost the packaging at the stores.

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