Shipping tomatoes in corrugated boxes can be significantly cheaper than shipping them in reusable plastic containers, according to a new study.

Corrugated can be 25% cheaper than RPCs, concludes a study by the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Corrugated Packaging Alliance, according to an alliance news release.

The study used data provided by a large tomato grower in Mexico. A software-modeling tool analyzed costs for using corrugated vs. RPCs to ship 144 million pounds of roma tomatoes to Houston.

Using corrugated saved $6.8 million annually, according to the analysis.

Backhaul requirements, washing and handling costs and other costs associated with RPCs account for the cost difference.

“Grocery retailers are looking to improve profits by reducing costs throughout the entire distribution channel,” Dennis Colley, the alliance’s executive director, said in the release. “Transportation packaging is one area that retailers scrutinize for possible cost savings.”

Growers and retailers save money when corrugated containers are used to ship tomatoes, according to the study.

An analysis of the same data using a special rental analysis module shows that, in a typical leasing arrangement, the retailer pays $3.5 million (17%) more to receive roma tomatoes shipped in RPCs vs. corrugated.

The grower pays $893,000 (12%) more to ship in RPCs.