All studies at a glance


replication "REusable plastic crates vs. single-use cardboard boxes"

Unfortunately, there are still publications that question "reusable before disposable", as the latest publications of FEFCO (The European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers) show.

We took a closer look at FEFCO's representations and compared them with the results of Fraunhofer studies.
Conclusion: reusable plastic corrugated boards clearly offer both economic and ecological advantages over disposable cardboard boxes. Taking a holistic view of the scientific study situation, claims from the FEFCO presentation can either be confirmed as less plausible or refuted. 

The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT carried out the "Study on plastic-based reusable systems in a circular economy" on behalf of the Stiftung Initiative Mehrweg. Aspects are highlighted that are particularly relevant for modern, sustainability-oriented and sovereign corporate management in line with regulatory developments on climate change and the circular economy.

The current Ukraine war and the global shortage of raw materials in particular call for quick solutions for resource and climate protection. Reusable systems offer great potential for this. The study comes to the conclusion: reusable is superior to disposable in 14 of the 17 categories examined and offers great potential for the success of a circular economy. What is missing is a clear political framework and the implementation of the existing waste hierarchy, which actually prioritizes reusables.

The figures on how much food in Germany ends up unused in waste fluctuate between 20 million tonnes per year (Source: Film Taste the Waste) and 300,000 tonnes (source: European Retail Institute). It is undisputed that these losses must be reduced urgently. To address the problem, however, reliable data on the situation is required.

For this purpose, the Stiftung Initiative Mehrweg Initiative commissioned the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics to examine the influence of packaging on the safe transport of fruit and vegetables. The study came to the conclusion that the packaging breakage of cardboard boxes (4.2%) is 35 times higher than that of reusable crates (0.12%).


The main objective of the study was to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions of the reusable, collapsible plastic containers and the disposable cardboard containers and to subsequently compare them. To achieve the main objective, processes along the entire value chain of both packaging systems were considered, based on their actual transport performance in Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and France.


The study “Sustainability of packaging systems for fruit and vegetable transport in Europe – based on a life cycle analysis” was commissioned by the SIM in 2009 and carried out by the Institut für ganzheitliche Bilanzierung, which is affiliated to the Fraunhofer Institut für Bauphysik and the University of Stuttgart.

The study came to the conclusion that the plastic-based reusable system is ecologically superior to the disposable carton system. Moreover, the reusable system proves to be the most economical.