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Packaging Showdown: Eco-Friendly Pouches vs. Cardboard Boxes

eco-friendly pouches

The packaging showdown of rigid vs. flexible often pits hard plastic jugs and bottles against flexible stand up pouches. There’s no question that a heavy, empty plastic jug is less eco-friendly than a plastic pouch that uses less material to make and disposes flat. But what about cardboard boxes?

In your hunt for eco-friendly packaging, it’s likely that you’re carefully considering paper-based options — and this makes sense. Paper and cardboard come from a sustainable resource (trees), biodegrade, and have automatic appeal among eco-conscious consumers. This doesn’t tell the whole story, though.

Eco-friendly pouches are a diverse solution that has a lot of advantages, too. Pouches can be made with paper-based structures, just like boxes, in addition to options like recyclable plastics or sustainable bioplastics. Newer alternatives such as biodegradable and compostable plastics are exciting many brands and are also worth your consideration, depending on the application. 

Eco-Friendly Pouches vs Cardboard Boxes:




Eco-Friendly Pouches

  • More protection from contamination
  • Better moisture barrier
  • Seals air-tight for freshness
  • Ships flat, stores flat, disposes flat
  • Slims down as product is dispensed
  • Cheap and fast to manufacture, print, fill
  • Bioplastics and paper-based pouches are made with sustainable resources
  • R7 plastic is 100% recyclable
  • Innovative, stands out on the shelf

  • Plastics can be recyclable OR biodegradable, but not both
  • Biodegradable plastics don’t do well with liquids (yet!)
  • Flexible packages leave products more vulnerable to impacts/crushing forces
  • Only recyclable plastic options are strong enough for heavier products (over 2 pounds)

Cardboard Boxes

  • Recyclable and biodegradable (unless it is laminated or has a plastic liner)
  • Rigid…for applications that require structured packaging
  • Made with a sustainable resource
  • Strong enough for heavier products (with heavy-duty boxes)
  • Flat sides make it stackable after assembly
  • Requires some assembly
  • Takes up more space in shipping, storage, trash
  • Must be broken down to become flat
  • May require longer to decompose than a biodegradable pouch
  • Not well suited for liquids (except bag-in-a-box)
  • Less air-tight, reducing freshness
  • Vulnerable to moisture
  • Blends into The Sea of SameTM on the shelf


Why Go With Eco-Friendly Pouches?

This will really depend upon the type of pouch material you’re choosing! If you’re interested in cutting-edge biodegradable packaging, a compostable bio-plastic pouch can degrade in just 3-4 weeks, whereas a traditional cardboard milk carton can take up to 5 years under similar conditions.

At the same time, your compostable pouch provides all the advantages of flexible packaging — cheaper costs, lighter weight, more protection from contaminants, moisture, exposure to air, and more. This is an innovative option well suited for dry or granular goods like powders, rice, spices, crunchy snacks, coffee, pet treats, and hard tablets.

However, 100% recyclable eco-friendly pouch packaging is also a strong contender. Recyclable plastic pouches bring the same flexible advantages along with more resistance to punctures, the strength to hold far heavier products, and an ideal format for liquids (with spouted pouches).

Why Go With Cardboard Boxes?

A cardboard box can still be a strong eco-friendly packaging option for products that need a rigid package to protect against impacts or create an easily stackable shape. Boxes can also be great when you want to provide a biodegradable or compostable option, but the product would be too heavy to use the current generation of biodegradable plastics.

Talk to an Expert

Our experienced team of supply chain specialists at ABC Packaging Direct — Stand Up Pouches would love to hear about your next project and answer all of your questions. We’re happy to ship out samples of compostable and biodegradable eco-friendly pouches for you to test as you evaluate and compare options for your product’s packaging. Contact us today to chat or get a quote!

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