Should you use plastic strapping on freight

Why Distributors in Australia should reconsider using Plastic Strapping

Those of us who have worked in the transport industry for a long time know about that blue plastic strapping that is often used to strap cartons and crates. Customers usually use it to secure and balance their packed cartons, making sure that goods reach their destination in good condition. However, with the increasing awareness of the impacts on the environment and the introduction of the APCO 2026, (Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation), packaging targets, it is time for distributors in Australia to rethink their use of plastic strapping. 

The APCO 2026 packaging targets aim to make all packaging in Australia reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. This includes the phase-out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging. Plastic strapping falls into this category, as it is often used only once and then thrown away. By removing plastic strapping from their operations, distributors can help to reduce the environmental impact of packaging waste and comply with the APCO 2026 packaging targets. 

Generally, we can say that society is trying to reduce single use plastics from our economy, where we can. Many of us are regular users of recycling and do try to limit the use of plastics where possible, but it’s also true that plastic is often the best way of achieving our objective and therefore recycling plays an important role. According to the business recycling website ( this plastic strapping can be recycled, however if it is not disposed of properly, or not intentionally recycled then it can often end up in landfill. If possible, should we consider eliminating the strapping from our transport systems altogether? 

How will Carriers react to the removal of single use plastic strapping?

Removing the plastic strapping has been seen as a positive step by some of the major carriers in Australia that we have contacted. The carriers also benefit from getting rid of the plastic strapping, as it can be hard and slow to take off and can hurt people if not handled properly. Some other disadvantages of using strapping from the carrier’s point of view are as follows: 

  • Strapping hiding bar codes. Sometimes customers put the strapping over the bar codes on the freight label or the strapping is loose and slides over the bar code. When the bar code is hidden, the carton cannot be scanned and must be sorted manually, which costs the carrier time and money. In fact, this is such a problem that some carriers will charge the customer a manual handling fee e.g. $15.00 per item that needs manual sorting. If the plastic strapping was the only reason for the manual handling fee, then this is a very big hidden cost of using strapping. 
  • Another problem for the carrier is that strapping can come off and get stuck or tangled in their conveyor system. If the line is stopped or even broken because of strapping, this is a huge loss for the carrier and that is why some carriers will not accept poorly strapped cartons on their conveyor system and charge a manual handling fee when an item is badly strapped. 
  • Delivery drivers often lift cartons by their straps, and even toss the cartons because they can get a swing up. This can damage or weaken the carton, especially if the carton quality is poor or low, by crushing the edges of the cartons when lifting them by the straps. Damaging the carton can eventually tear and open it, exposing the contents to damage or loss. 

Overall, I believe its accurate to say that the carrier’s attitude to strapping is for it to be removed from the small package delivery system. 

Now that we can see there are strong reasons to eliminate this plastic strapping from the distribution chain, why do shippers maintain its use given that its costly and obliges them to participate in the process of recycling. Well, speaking with our customers, the most common reason cited for this plastic strapping is that its helps secure their cargo and prevents damage to the packaged items – especially if the items being transported are dense. I think it’s also fair to say that there is also an element of “well we’ve always strapped out cartons” that is, it’s a legacy of a time that was less environmentally aware and packaging technology was limited. 

Benefits to Eliminating Plastic Strapping

What would shippers and purchasers stand to gain by eliminating plastic strapping. In summary they: 

  • Reduce the cost of their warehouse consumables. 
  • Reduce the cost of disposing of or recycling waste. 
  • Reduce the time taken to pack and prepare their cartons for transport. 
  • Free up space in their warehouse taken up by strapping machines and supplies. 
  • Potentially eliminate very expensive manual handling fees in their shipping costs. 
  • Make a meaningful contribution to a more environmentally friendly profile for their company or operations. 

There are many reasons why shippers should think about getting rid of this plastic strapping, as you can see from the list. What are some other options shippers can use to pack their cargo? 

  • Use better quality cartons or packaging materials. Cartons that have internal gusset can give more strength and stability to the carton and make external reinforcement unnecessary. 
  • If you believe that strapping is needed, then investigate whether a more environmentally friendly plastic can work as a replacement for the conventional strapping. 
  • Selective use – is strapping required for every carton? Do all your products have to be shipped in strapped cartons, or just the heaviest ones? You may not want to get rid of all the strapping but is it possible to get rid of most of it? 

In summary, the use of plastic strapping has been a usual practice in the logistics industry, but with the new APCO 2026 packaging targets and the growing worry for the environment, it is time for distributors in Australia to rethink their use of plastic strapping. By eliminating plastic strapping from their operations, distributors can help to lower the environmental impact of packaging waste, meet the APCO 2026 packaging targets, and cut down their own direct and indirect costs significantly. If you are concerned about making a big change to your operations, would you try a test where you remove all or most of the strapping for a while and then check the damage or loss rates of your product along with the cost savings and decide how to move forward on a permanent basis from there? What do you have to lose? 

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