Dust, Paperboard vs. Plastic

June asks,

We have a customer that manufactures pharmaceuticals and they are considering switching from a corrugated shipping container to a plastic one because the vendor has convinced them that fibers from the corrugated boxes can get into their product from boxes in the manufacturing area. Got to give that salesman credit . . . he’s creative! Do you have any research or technical information that can prove those fibers are limited and /or unharmful?

Any information you can provide would be appreciated.

Yes the salesperson was indeed creative! Any two surfaces that rub against each other will create dust. Linerboard would have a softer surface than plastic and arguably… could… create more dust. However, I would think that to create a sufficient amount of dust to be a concern would mostly likely require repeated reuse of the box, lower quality paperboard, or a manufacturing facility in desperate need of some good housekeeping practices.

There are several tests we can perform to measure the amount of “dusting” or cellulose fibre release from the surface. In general the harder, or denser the linerboard the less dust it should generate. Bleached or coated board would have a harder surface and therefore, should present a lower paper dust concern.

As to whether the fibers are harmful, corrugated is approved for direct dry food contact. Have a pizza lately? I’ll go out on a limb here, but I believe it would be safer to consume a little paper dust than a little plastic dust.

Has your customer already converted to the plastic shippers? If not, perhaps you should stop by the drug store on your way to your next visit with them and pick up some of their products. Take them in, unopened, and show the customer just how clean the products are.

Also, if the plastic containers they are talking about are the reusable ones I often see in Walmart, CVS and the like, not only will the customer probably have to purchase the container (they can be rented), but they will have to track them, see that they are returned and that means shipping truck loads of empties. Depending on size and design these types of containers can range from in price from 15 dollars to over 300 dollars each. Toss in the “re-handling” costs and you can buy a whole lot of paperboard boxes for the price of a single reusable plastic container.

– Ralph

One Response to “Dust, Paperboard vs. Plastic”

  1. Guy Ockerlund (@oxboxusa) Says:

    If the customer is insistent about using plastic boxes, Eco-Shield corrugated materials incorporate plastic from recycled water bottles into fiberboard boxes. All the benefits of plastic at a fraction of the cost and recyclable with other corrugated materials.

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