Cardboard boxes are often seen as a sustainable way to package and deliver parcels. South Africa’s largest eCommerce sites, Takealot, Superbalist and Faithful to Nature, use cardboard as their primary means of delivery protection.
And customers seem to love it. According to consumer feedback, customers who shop online view cardboard as the most environmentally-friendly packaging option available.
Yet cardboard is, by most measures, worse for the environment than plastic equivalents. When considered over the useful life of packaging, cardboard holds a dirty little secret: it embodies substantially more greenhouse gases than it’s plastic equivalents. When comparing cardboard to Mielie Mailers or other plant-based alternatives, cardboard fairs even worse in the pursuit of sustainability.
Where does cardboard come from?
Paper products take exorbitant amounts of energy to make.
- Crushing a tree down into small fibres,
- Mixing the wood pulp into a slurry
- Passing the wet mass through huge rollers
These production steps use enormous quantities of power.
Making paper and cardboard is almost certainly the third-largest industrial use of energy on the planet.
In contrast, plastic is light, hardy and its manufacture is not energy-intensive when compared to cardboard.
So... plastic then?
Plastic mailers do have some positives for the environment. They comprehensively beat cardboard on two important fronts:
- They take up less space in containers and trucks than boxes, making shipping more efficient.
- Fewer greenhouse gases are emitted — and less petroleum consumed — by the production, use and disposal of plastic film compared with recycled cardboard.
But, plastic has a dark side too. The war on single-use plastic is well-justified and it’s status as 'public enemy number one' well-earned. Humans dump over 8 million metric tons of plastic waste into the ocean every year - choking sea life and causing them to starve as they fill their bellies with indigestible plastics instead of food. Plastic also takes up to 500 years to degrade and even then does not disappear completely. Instead, as we have recently come to learn, plastic becomes smaller and smaller, turning into the newly coined term: ‘nano-plastics’.
Introducing biodegradable plastic bags - Not perfect, but better.
Mielie Mailers and other compostable plastics embody most of the positives of both packaging styles while few of the negatives. They are lightweight, strong and biodegrade in less than 6-months. They also take up less space in delivery vehicles, allowing courier companies and the postal service to fit more parcels per trip. This increases overall efficiency and decreases each product’s share of trip carbon emissions.
Production-wise, Mielie Mailers are made from a combination of fast-growing renewable plant materials (spoilt corn which is not fit for human consumption) and PBAT, an incredibly biodegradable ‘plastic’ partly derived from petrochemicals. Why use PBAT? It is the key to our home compostability certification.
And unlike cardboard boxes, which are usually plastered in toxic ink and thus leach toxins into the soil when they decompose, Mielie Mailers leach no such toxins and turn into nothing but C02, H20 and organic matter.
We hope you enjoyed our blog post!