Shipping fresh strawberries costs 13% less in corrugated containers than in reusable plastic containers, according to a case study by Corrugated Packaging Alliance.
The findings by the Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based trade group are based on the costs of washing and hauling reusable plastic containers, or RPCs, back to the shipper, among other factors.
A Salinas, Calif., strawberry grower, unnamed in the study, provided the data for it. The study assumes a scenario in which 144 million pounds of strawberries are shipped annually over 2,400 miles about the same as Salinas to Cincinnati to a distribution center and then to retail stores. It weighs various costs and benefits of corrugated and reusable plastic containers.
According to the study, annual savings amounted to $6.6 million for corrugated over RPCs. Much of that reflects $8.3 million saved in handling, trucking and washing costs of the return trip for reusable plastic, a trip corrugated doesn"t make. Washing, for example, added $1.6 million, or 10 cents a container, to annual cost.
"The cost of washing and back hauling the RPCs is incurred by the pool operator, and ultimately paid for by the grower-shippers in the cost they pay to use the RPC for one round trip," spokeswoman Cheryl Reyhnout said.
When recycling corrugated, Reynhout said, retailers benefit. "Recyclers pick it up and pay for it," she said. Recycling of corrugated was reported at 91% for 2012.
Using the data in a rental analysis software module, the case study found that in a typical leasing deal, the retailer pay $4.6 million (13%) more to receive strawberries in RPCs than in corrugated. The grower pays $3.8 million (40%) more to ship.
The study examines the impact of cost factors through the distribution system.
The Corrugated Packaging Alliance is sponsored by the American Forest & Paper Association, the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters, the Fibre Box Association and the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry.