It has been announced that France will be introducing a penalty fine to companies who use non-recyclable plastic. Furthermore, Ikea have declared they will be banning all single-use plastic packaging from their store and restaurants. The single-use plastic products will be totally banned in 2020, and will start its phasing out imminently. The plastic products that will be stopped consist of straws, plates, cups, freezer bags, garbage bags, and plastic-coated paper plates and cups.

In a world that is becoming more conscious of its economy than ever before, many brands have started swapping plastics to recyclable alternatives in hope to one day become a non-recyclable-plastic free world. Of course, this out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new attitude is great for providing cleaner oceans and landfill sites. But what about the complications? And how exactly will this affect the freight industry?

When shipping loads, particularly foods and perishables, it important for goods to be packaged suitably and correctly so goods will arrive in perfect selling condition. Take for example, plastic stickers on apples. These are used for tracking purposes during the transportation procedure. Furthermore, packaging on fruit and vegetables, such as the plastic wrapper on cucumbers, and plastic punnets for soft fruits, such as raspberries, are used to keep the product fresh and from any bruising or damage. This ultimately maintains the life of the (perishable goods), which is vital when importing through various forms of transport.

Efforts have already been made to reduce the amount of plastic packaging we use, such as cardboard and biodegradable punnets, but it still seems difficult to go completely packaging free without making the transportation of these goods problematic. There are inevitable complications that the supply chain would be faced with, should foods have to lose their packaging. One report on the issue by the BBC stated that “the mixture of plastics used in many yoghurt pots, ready meal trays and other containers limits the ability of councils to recycle them”. Yet, if we changed these materials to alternative forms to plastic, such as glass or cardboard, transportation of the goods could become affected.

Should yoghurts be packaged in glass jars, this not only makes the weight of the product much higher for transportation, but potentially more expensive too. The price of the product could increase due to the packaging prices, as well as the transportation costs increasing due to the weight of the load. Glass is much thicker and heavier than plastic pots, so the amount of goods within a load compared to plastic would decrease, due to both volume and weight capacities.

Should product packaging be replaced with cardboard, goods could face a higher possibility of being damaged in transit. Whilst cardboard can be created thick enough to protect the goods inside, cardboard lacks the ability to protect its goods from water, damp or leaks. Should the transport include damp or humid conditions, the goods are not as protected in cardboard than they would in plastic. Therefore, cardboard punnets can only be used for foods that have a natural protecting layer or peel, such as oranges, bananas and avocados.

Whilst special care is taken for fragile and perishable products, alternative packaging could reduce the shelf life of the products, and even put pressure on freight forwarders to handle products with more care than usual.


Rachel Jefferies, Editor, Freight Media