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Totebox take a look at the cost and environmental benefits of plastic containers over cardboard boxes for storage and distribution.


Reducing packaging waste


Reducing packaging waste in the supply chain is a key benefit of plastic crates, helping users to reduce both costs and carbon footprint.


Because plastic boxes can be reused repeatedly over many years, each individual container has the capacity to replace hundreds of single-use cardboard boxes over its long life.


Plastic containers also allow users to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, packaging sundries. Unlike cardboard, plastic boxes require no taping or stapling and stack securely on pallets, reducing the need for stretch wrap or banding.


Lowering distribution costs


Although initially more expensive than cardboard, reusable plastic transit containers have a long life expectancy which usually exceeds seven years, with many still in use after several decades. Most plastic crate users report a payback period of between one year and 18 months when replacing cardboard so, after seven plus years, the financial savings can be enormous.


Plastic crates are available in three formats: stacking, nesting and folding. All three designs stack when loaded, but the nesting and folding models also nest inside each other or fold flat when empty to save valuable space on return transport.


Many models of plastic boxes include lids to protect contents from the elements. Plastic attached-lid containers (ALCs) fitted with tamper-evident security seals deter theft of valuable or high-risk contents and prevent deliberate contamination.


Increasing warehouse efficiencies


Plastic stacking containers are ideal for internal storage. Unlike most carboard boxes, the strength and uniformity of plastic boxes provide a level platform for multiple pallet loads to be blocked stacked on top of each other. This can free up a significant area for additional storage.


Many cardboard boxes are time consuming to assemble and need to be stretch-wrapped ready for despatch. Plastic crates securely interlock when stacked, reducing the need for stretch-wrapping. Users are therefore able to significantly reduce their marshalling and packing area, creating even more storage space.


Some plastic container models are manufactured to precise dimensions with minimum flex to operate smoothly with automated handling equipment including robot handling, automated storage and retrieval systems, pick and place equipment, etc.


Meeting health & safety requirements


With ergonomically shaped and positioned hand-holds, plastic containers are designed for safe manual handling. Unlike cardboard there are no sharp edges or staples that can cause injury and there is no requirement for a sharp knife to open boxes.


Plastic boxes with lids are weatherproof. Rain reduces cardboard’s structural strength, making stacked loaded trays liable to collapse, risking damage to contents and injury to personnel.


Carboard can generate large amounts of dust which adheres to oiled machinery, leading to additional maintenance costs, and presents respiratory issues for employees. Plastic containers provide a clean and safe working environment.


Improving manufacturing efficiencies


Plastic trays have a constant tare which means that their weight remains constant. This is important if you are weighing produce in the trays by ensuring that you do not either over deliver or short change your customers. Cardboard absorbs moisture, so is liable to fluctuations in weight.


Often manufactured in food-grade material, plastic trays’ smooth surfaces and curved corners are inherently hygienic and easy to clean.




There are many types of plastic containers on the market and they vary greatly in quality. Plastic storage containers commonly sold at popular retail outlets may be relatively inexpensive but they tend to break after a short time and cannot be stacked particularly high, presenting a potential safety risk if they are carrying anything but light loads. Industrial strength plastic containers, such as those stocked by Totebox, are designed for tough storage and handling operations in factories and warehouses. They cost a little more, but last for many years.


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If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, get in touch today on 01327 340 177 or head over to our contact page for more details.