How Paperboard Replaces Plastic and Shrink Packaging


Finding an alternative to plastic packaging materials is not only smart but necessary. As a result, paperboard has become a central focus in recent years due to its sustainability. In addition, environmentally conscious companies are becoming more intentional about packaging, which impacts their re-branding, manufacturing, and distribution processes.

Let’s explore some companies you’re familiar with and how they’ve recently incorporated sustainable methods into their new packaging protocol.

Bumble Bee Tuna Replaces Plastic with Paperboard

Tuna cans are often bundled together using plastic shrink wrap. We’ve all likely seen and purchased cans utilizing this type of packaging before. However, in an intentional effort to apply sustainability to their product packaging, the CEO of Bumble Bee Tuna transformed their long familiar packaging design. Eliminating all plastic, their tuna packaging began to use paperboard instead. 

Now you will see paperboard holding bundles of tuna cans together—no more plastic shrink wrap, just tin, and recyclable paper materials, unlike their counterpart.

How is Paperboard a Sustainable Packaging Material?

Paperboard is an excellent alternative to plastic for product packaging. It is strong enough to hold tuna cans together or other similar items. Not only is it sturdy enough to hold various products together, but it is also thin and easy to remove when needed. 

Recycled paperboard consists of a mixture of dried, recycled paper fibers from diverse sources. They are often collected from leftover paper manufacturing plants, converting facilities, and consumer recycling donations. 

Printing on paperboard is made possible by using a clay coating over the top ply. You’ll see paperboard used most often in:

  • Cereal boxes
  • Cracker packaging
  • Cake mixes
  • Pasta packaging
  • Laundry powders
  • Boxed teas

There are countless examples of paperboard being used in product packaging. And don’t be surprised if you continue to see more and more of it replacing plastic, especially in shrink-wrap materials and food packaging.

Paperboard Wins in Product Packaging Sustainability

Paper recycling continues to outweigh its plastic counterparts, so paperboard is becoming more available as a packaging alternative. Paperboard material is collected from wood, a renewable resource, allowing it to break down more quickly and decomposes back into the earth. The fibers may be re-harvested and used in paper products, again and again, thus creating the cycle of sustainability. 

Other benefits of using paperboard include:

  • Safer for single-use disposal
  • Useful in packaging with interior structure
  • UV and odor-resistant
  • Custom packaging design and printing options
  • Efficient uses (folding, tiers, etc.)
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Biodegradable

The durability of paperboard fluctuates depending on how it is designed to protect different types of products. Most commonly, paperboard is used to safeguard lightweight materials, such as cereal flakes, dried macaroni, etc. However, more sturdy paperboard variations are available and are used for heavier products. For example, you might see them used more in food takeout containers.

Product packaging using sustainable materials continues to gain popularity out of necessity. Plastic-free brands advocate for more creative packaging solutions using paperboard and other renewable alternatives.

Pioneer Packaging, Your Custom Product Packaging Designer

For over 35 years, Pioneer Packaging has been your go-to Arizona packaging company for designing b2b packaging that sells. Our creative packaging designers work closely with you to ensure your brand is recognized for quality packaging design and materials.  So we can create a design fit for you if you’re looking to get your corrugated product packaging supplies at affordable prices or attract new consumers. We strive to keep costs down to help our customers keep their brands moving along production lines. 

Contact Pioneer Packaging today and learn why we’re a leader in industrial packaging innovation.

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