A Guide to Corrugated Plastic Containers

Corrugated plastic containers are simple products with a surprisingly diverse set of applications. Corrugated plastic containers are among the most versatile storage solutions you can find, enabling them to be used in a wide range of industries and use cases. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about these containers, including:

  • Advantages
  • Types
  • Use cases
  • Customization Opportunities
  • Applications Across Industries

Let’s begin with the industry-spanning advantages of this versatile storage option.

6 Advantages of Corrugated Plastic Containers

The biggest benefits of corrugated plastic containers are a direct result of the material that’s used to construct them. Made from three layers of polypropylene, these benefits are especially pronounced when comparing the storage solution with alternative materials like cardboard or wood. The six core advantages of corrugated plastic are:

  1. Durability.
  2. Resistance.
  3. Cost-Effectiveness.
  4. Sustainability.
  5. Weight.
  6. Flexibility.

Let’s discuss each of these six advantages in more detail.

1. Durability

Thanks to the materials used to construct them, storage containers made from corrugated plastic can last 30 to 50 times longer than cardboard alternatives. Postal totes with this material often last over a decade. They can easily handle the stresses of carrying a wide range of items over time, making them more reusable than any of the other alternatives on the market.

2. Moisture and Chemical Resistance

Corrugated plastic is non-porous, meaning it can be used to safely handle any type of moisture and even most chemicals. It complies with FDA food storage regulations while also being comparatively impervious to dust and dirt, adding to the durability and reusability of these containers.

3. Cost-Effectiveness

Due in no small part to the durability and reusability mentioned above, corrugated plastic boxes and containers are especially cost-effective over time. Replacement costs become much less significant, decreasing a business’s storage budget over time.

4. Sustainability

Don’t underestimate the environmental friendliness of this material. As we’ll discuss in more detail below, the entire container is recyclable, and able to be turned into new products when it has reached the end of its product life cycle.

5. Weight

Anyone who has handled corrugated plastic knows just how lightweight the material truly is. In fact, plastic has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any material used for storage solutions, making it easier to transport and more flexible to use. 

6. Flexibility

The relative ease of manufacturing these corrugated plastic containers allows for more customizability. With the right supplier, you’ll be able to find almost any size, shape, and color product that can be used for any purpose that might benefit your business. And thanks to the thinness of the material, you even save space when using these containers to stock shelves.

5 Common Types of Corrugated Plastic Containers

Browsing through corrugated plastic containers will leave you with many options to consider for your warehousing, storage, and transportation needs. The following 5 types are especially common. The information below will help you understand exactly what type you’ll need and when to take advantage of each product type.

  • Standard boxes: Standard boxes made from corrugated plastic are typically stackable and often come with a lid. You will also find variations like hopper front containers that are semi-open on the front, allowing for easier access when stacked or stored on a warehouse shelf.
  • Totes: Unlike standard boxes, plastic totes are best known for their stackability. Totes often come with some type of enclosure, like a lid or a drawer, making them ideal for transporting smaller items. Many totes are foldable for easier storage when not in use at any given moment.
  • Bins: Bins are most often used for storage and maintaining easy access to small individual items held within. Think of the bins used in a hardware store to hold individual screws or nuts. They’re typically stackable and modular, making it easy to create a larger storage system for multiple related items.
  • Trays: Typically larger and flatter than other types of storage solutions, trays work especially well for the storage or transportation of larger items. Like bins, they’re stackable, but can also be used as a single unit for easier movement and storage.
  • Inserts: While many of the above types of containers can come with inserts, it’s also possible to use inserts on their own to increase the customizability of your storage. For example, placing a divider into a large standard box can transform its usability, allowing you to store and separate multiple small items in one larger space

Of course, you can find variations of each of these product types as well. Corrugated plastic is flexible enough that no matter your storage and transportation needs, you’ll find a solution.

Design and Customization

Beyond and within the individual types of corrugated plastic containers, one of the biggest advantages of this material is its customizability. Containers can be manufactured and adjusted to suit almost any requirement, increasing their flexibility for nearly any use case.

Some of the most common customization options we encounter include:

  • Container size: size includes length, width, and depth. This allows you to save space everywhere, from warehouses to transportation vehicles, by reducing the amount of wasted space between containers. 
  • Container shapes: In some situations, irregularly shaped containers allow for further customization and even less wasted space. 
  • Container color: We offer more than a dozen standard options as well as custom colors. This allows for color-coding systems that increase the ease of storage logistics.
  • Container branding: Printing custom logos on the containers can increase awareness and recognition of your brand among anyone who encounters them.

These customization possibilities bring a number of advantages in their own right. They make everything from storage to transport easier. Branding and marketing features only increase the utility of what would otherwise be simple storage containers.

Environmental Impact

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important component in the supply chain of any type of product. As Rae-Anne Alves and Glenn Steinberg, supply chain experts at Ernst and Young, stated in a recent research report:

Focusing on supply chains is key to overall environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts because more than 90% of an organization’s greenhouse gas emissions, and 50% to 70% of operating costs, are attributable to supply chains [….]. Eight in 10 supply chain executives are increasing their efforts toward sustainable supply chain operations.

Many of the efforts to increase supply chain sustainability are large-scale logistics optimizations. But the materials used for storage and transportation might be just as important in achieving these goals.

It starts with the manufacturing piece of the equation. Manufacturing plastic containers is a quick and efficient process. On average, it takes less time and requires less energy to create plastic containers than containers made of any other comparable material. The reusability due to the durability of the material also means fewer boxes need to be manufactured, further reducing energy and greenhouse gasses.

The benefits to the environment don’t end there. The customizable material means less space is wasted, while lightweight material means less energy is required during transit. And when corrugated plastic reaches the end of its lifespan, it can easily be recycled by the manufacturer to create a circle of usability that extends far beyond its initial life.

Industry Applications for Corrugated Plastic Containers

The benefits of corrugated plastic make one thing clear—nearly every industry can benefit from using them in some way. Even applications as wide-ranging as education or technology can leverage this storage option in many ways. 

However, some industries are particularly good fits for corrugated plastic containers. From retail to healthcare and agriculture to logistics, below we’ll cover the most common applications and use cases of fluted plastic containers.

The Retail Industry

The most common application of corrugated plastic storage in the retail industry revolves around packaging and shipping individual products. That’s largely due to the material’s durability and chemical resistance. Because of these advantages, it’s a perfect way to ship fragile or perishable goods quickly and safely.

But that’s not the only potential use. Custom branding and colors come in especially handy for use in stores, where they can help individual products stand out for consumers on the shelf. Being able to customize colors can also help retailers color-coordinate different brands and product categories for an enhanced user experience. 

The Food and Beverage Industry

Increasingly, corrugated plastic is being used in the food and beverage industry. This is for many of the same reasons as retail. This industry relies on food remaining fresh and safe during transportation, and plastic containers are notable for offering these qualities.

The same is true for food storage after products arrive on site, and even handling food products in large logistics operations. Raw materials, ingredients, and finished products can all be safely stored, handled, and transported in plastic containers.

The customizability opportunities of corrugated plastic come in especially handy in this industry. For example, businesses are able to add drainage holes and partitions to containers depending on the needs of the products they’re trying to store and transport, optimizing their storage for each product as needed.

The Healthcare Industry

In this industry, professionals depend on the safe transportation and storage of medical supplies. Many of these supplies are chemical in nature, which both increases the need for safe storage and reduces the options of containers that can safely handle such chemicals.

Corrugated plastic is ideal in this industry because of its durability and chemical resistance. Because the material is non-porous, it can also easily be cleaned and disinfected, making it an ideal fit in healthcare environments where hygiene is essential.

These same features come into play during the transport of medical waste and biohazardous materials. The plastic helps to ensure safe transport in all scenarios, reducing not just the physical risk to the public but the level of potential legal jeopardy for healthcare companies as well.

The Agriculture Industry

Agriculture happens in a fixed place, but the results of its labor almost necessarily have to be transported. Having the right containers in place to transport anything from produce to flowers, either to wholesalers or to end consumers in environments like farmer’s markets, is an essential piece of the equation.To meet these requirements, the lightweight of corrugated plastics could be the solution many agricultural businesses are looking for. The natural resistance to moisture of plastic can prevent fruits and vegetables from growing mold or other spores. This increases reusability, reducing waste in the process.

Finally, the customizability of corrugated plastic allows for unique features like ventilation holes, providing airflow that will keep producing fresh during long transits and storage. 

The Logistics Industry

Finally, and perhaps not surprisingly, given the frequent mention of logistics throughout this guide, corrugated plastic containers play an essential role in the logistics industry. They’re frequently used in all phases of the process, from storage to transportation and finally, the handling of individual goods. Use cases from the logistics industry rise every year.

Part of the reason for that continued increase is the material’s durability. The logistics industry uses perhaps the largest amount of storage containers of any industry in a given year, so every repeated use has the potential to save vital room in a logistics company’s budget. Especially, when compared to less durable materials. 

Of course, the ability to customize containers benefits many players in the logistics industry. For example, collapsible walls can save space when containers are transported, allowing for more efficient and sustainable supply chains in the process.

In Summary

A comprehensive list of industries that are able to effectively use corrugated plastic containers would require listing many more if not all, industries. That’s thanks to the wide range of applications of this material, along with reusability and versatility that other, comparable materials just can’t match.

From product packaging and storage to transportation, the use cases of corrugated plastic are almost endless. Add in the ability to customize the containers to suit specific industry and business needs, and you’ll find a material that is tailor-made for every step in your supply chain.