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Sustainable Materials Matter

There are several potential materials one could use to manufacture thermoformed products. It’s important to know that we know what you use and what you might be able to use, which would make it a more sustainable solution that could impact the environment more positively.

Navigating Material Choices: Integrating Sustainability & Innovation

Material choices have the potential to dictate performance, durability, sustainability, and the impact it will have on ecology and the ever evolving consumer preferences model. Some material choices are good for the planet, and others are not; we know the difference and have the ability to show you how to utilize them in your process and still make it profitable through the use of specific process engineering solutions.

The engineering of a symbiotic relationship between innovation and sustainability is in a large part, the attention given to selecting biodegradable materials that aid in creating unique pathways towards an enduring process with less impact on the environment. A process where excellence in design converges with a conscientious commitment to the environment and ultimately, consumer satisfaction.

What Works

What Works

Packaging Materials: What It's Made Of


It’s the most cost-effective, easy-to-use, transparent material often used in food and automobile parts production because of its strength and durability.

PVC/Polyvinyl Chloride

It’s also cost-effective and possesses the attributes of chemical resistance and flame retardancy. Very suitable for a wide range of products.


It’s a great choice and works well for the production of products that need to have impact resistance, rigidity, and chemical resistance.


It’s another option for thermoforming packaging and products that possess chemical resistance, high-temperature resistance, and low moisture absorption.

ABS/Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

It’s another excellent choice of material with strength, rigidity, impact, and heat resistance. It is used extensively in automotive, electronics, consumer goods, and toy manufacturing verticals.

Biodegradable Materials

It’s a natural choice and works well with others in the production of unique product and packaging solutions for food and general consumable as well as certain packaging tactile and tensile strength considerations

It’s a natural choice

In the thermoforming process, various types of paper can be utilized to create packaging and products. These papers should possess specific characteristics to withstand the heat and pressure of the thermoforming process while maintaining their structural integrity. Here are some paper options suitable for thermoforming:

SBS/Solid Bleached Sulfate Paperboard

This paperboard product is a popular choice due to its smooth surface and printability. Its stiffness and ability to hold shape make it well-suited for thermoforming applications, producing crisp and detailed packaging designs.

Bio-based and Biodegradable Paper

As sustainability gains prominence, bio-based and biodegradable papers are being explored for thermoforming. These papers are derived from renewable sources and break down more easily in the environment.

Recycled Paperboard

Recycled paperboard, made from post-consumer materials, is an environmentally friendly option. While it may require additional processing to enhance its thermoforming properties, it offers a great sustainable choice for consumer packaging.

Thermoformable Laminates

Thermoformable laminates consist of multiple layers, combining different materials like paper, plastic, and metal foils. These laminates offer enhanced barrier properties, extending the shelf life of packaged products.

The choice of paper for thermoforming depends on factors such as the desired visual appeal, sustainability goals, barrier requirements, and the type of product being packaged. It's important to ensure that the selected paper can withstand the thermoforming process without losing its integrity or compromising the quality of the final packaging.


CUK/Coated Unbleached Kraft Paperboard

This paperboard option combines the strength of kraft with a coated surface, offering a natural appearance with enhanced print quality. It's suitable for thermoforming packaging that requires both durability and an organic feel.

Non-Bending Chipboard

Non-bending chipboard provides robust structural support, making it suitable for thermoforming applications where durability is essential. It's commonly used for packaging items that need extra protection.

Barrier-Coated Paperboard

Paperboard coated with barrier materials like polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP) can be thermoformed to create packaging with moisture and grease resistance. These coatings enhance the paper's performance in protecting food products.

Moldable Pulp

Moldable pulp, often used in egg cartons and protective packaging, can also be thermoformed to create environmentally friendly packaging solutions for various products.

Food-safe barriers

These coatings are essential for preserving the quality and safety of food products while packaged in paperboard. These coatings provide a protective layer that prevents moisture, grease, oils, and other contaminants from compromising the packaging and the contents within. Here are some common types of food-safe barrier coatings applied to paperboard:

PE/Polyethylene Coating

A widely used choice, PE coatings provide a moisture and grease barrier. They are often applied as a thin layer to paperboard, creating a protective shield against external elements. PE coatings are commonly found in fast food packaging, takeout containers, and microwavable food containers.

Wax Coating

This coating creates a water-resistant barrier on paperboard, making them ideal for packaging items like dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. They are often used in products that require breathability, allowing the contents to maintain their freshness.

Water-based Coatings

These coatings are a safer alternative to traditional solvent-based coatings. They can provide resistance against moisture, grease, and oil, while also being more environmentally friendly and easier to recycle.

Biodegradable Coatings

With a growing emphasis on sustainability, biodegradable coatings are becoming more popular. These coatings offer a barrier while being environmentally friendly. They can be derived from materials like starch, cellulose, or bio-based polymers.

Aluminum Foil Lamination

Aluminum foil is often laminated onto paperboard to create a barrier against moisture, oxygen, and light. This type of coating is used for products that require extended shelf life, such as coffee, tea, and snack items.  Not sure we should add this one.

Barrier Films

In some cases, barrier films are applied to paperboard to provide an extra layer of protection. These films can be made from various materials, including polymers and aluminum, and offer excellent resistance against moisture, gasses, and odors.

PP/Polypropylene Coating

Similar to PE coatings, PP coatings offer resistance against moisture and oil. They are suitable for a range of food packaging applications, including packaging for frozen foods, snacks, and bakery items.

UV Coatings

This coating provides a glossy finish to paperboard while also offering some level of resistance to moisture and contaminants. They are commonly used for packaging items like confectionery and cosmetics.  Not sure if we should add this one
These food-safe barrier coatings play a crucial role in maintaining the quality and safety of packaged food products. Depending on the specific needs of the product and packaging, the appropriate coating is selected to ensure that the contents remain fresh and protected throughout their shelf life.

Sustainability Feature

Sustainability, particularly the regulatory and public concerns around single-use packaging waste—is combining with other powerful trends to drive significant changes in consumer packaging. Regulators are actively moving on this issue, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies and retailers are proactively making bold commitments to improve both the sustainability of their packaging and to rethink their packaging systems fundamentally.

Planet Healthy

Material Benefits Overview

Polystyrene is one of the most commonly used materials in thermoforming due to its cost-effectiveness and ease of processing. It is available in two primary forms: general-purpose polystyrene (GPPS) and high-impact polystyrene (HIPS). GPPS offers good clarity and is suitable for applications requiring transparency, such as food packaging. HIPS, on the other hand, has improved impact resistance and is often used for products that require enhanced durability, such as electronic housings or automotive parts.

Polyvinyl chloride is another popular material in thermoforming applications. It is known for its excellent chemical resistance, flame retardancy, and low cost. PVC is available in rigid or flexible forms, making it suitable for a wide range of products, including packaging, signage, medical devices, and construction materials. However, it is important to note that the use of PVC raises environmental concerns due to its chlorine content and potential for releasing toxic gasses when burned.

Polyethylene is a versatile thermoplastic material that is widely used in thermoforming. It is available in different forms, including high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE). HDPE offers excellent impact resistance, rigidity, and chemical resistance, making it suitable for applications such as industrial containers, automotive components, and outdoor furniture. LDPE, on the other hand, is more flexible and commonly used for products like bags, liners, and squeeze bottles.

Polypropylene is a popular choice for thermoforming due to its excellent balance of properties. It offers good chemical resistance, high-temperature resistance, and low moisture absorption. PP is commonly used for packaging, automotive components, appliances, and medical devices. It can be easily processed using both vacuum forming and pressure forming techniques.

ABS is a thermoplastic material that combines the strength and rigidity of acrylonitrile and styrene with the impact resistance of butadiene rubber. It offers excellent mechanical properties, good heat resistance and is often chosen for applications requiring structural integrity and impact resistance. ABS is commonly used in automotive parts, electronic enclosures, consumer goods, and toys.

Other Specialty Thermoforming Materials

In addition to the common thermoforming materials mentioned above, several specialty materials are available for specific applications. These materials are designed to meet specific performance requirements such as high heat resistance, chemical resistance, or enhanced aesthetics. Some examples include:

High-Performance Thermoplastics: Specialty thermoforming materials include high-performance thermoplastics like Polycarbonate (PC), Polyetherimide (PEI), and Polyetheretherketone (PEEK). These materials offer exceptional mechanical strength, high-temperature resistance, flame retardancy, and chemical resistance, making them suitable for aerospace, automotive, and electronics applications.

Conductive and Anti-Static Materials: For applications requiring electrical conductivity or static dissipation, thermoformers can choose from specialty materials infused with conductive additives or those specifically designed to eliminate static charge build-up. These materials are vital for electronic packaging, cleanroom equipment, and sensitive electronic device protection.

ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) Materials: ESD materials prevent damage to electronic components by safely dissipating electrostatic charges. They find use in the manufacturing of trays, containers, and handling materials for the electronics industry.

Textured and Decorative Films: Thermoforming can incorporate specialty textured and decorative films, such as woodgrain, carbon fiber, or metallic finishes. These films add aesthetic appeal to products and can be found in automotive interiors, consumer electronics, and interior decor.

UV-Resistant Materials: Thermoforming materials with UV resistance are crucial for outdoor applications exposed to sunlight. These materials maintain their color and mechanical properties over extended periods, making them suitable for automotive exteriors, signage, and outdoor equipment.

Bio-Based and Biodegradable Materials: As sustainability becomes increasingly important, specialty thermoforming materials now include bio-based and biodegradable options like polylactic acid (PLA) and starch-based materials. These materials offer eco-friendly alternatives for packaging, disposable products, and single-use items.

Thermoformable Foam Materials: Thermoformable foam materials, like Polyethylene Foam and Polyurethane Foam, provide excellent cushioning, shock absorption, and insulation. They are widely used in protective packaging, automotive interiors, and sporting goods.

Medical-Grade Materials: For medical and healthcare applications, specialty thermoforming materials include grades that meet stringent regulatory requirements, ensuring biocompatibility, serializability, and chemical resistance.

Businesses that are looking for proof of a return on investment for sustainable packaging and sustainable operations should look at some encouraging financial evidence from recent years. Consumers are willing to pay more for goods and services from sustainable companies. Brands turn to sustainable packaging for many reasons, including corporate social responsibility, reducing their carbon footprints, reducing waste, increasing sales — and because retailers require it.

The 100 most sustainable companies in the United States, as named by investment magazine Barron's, enjoyed share price growth of 29% in 2021, compared to 22% for the S&P 500 Index. The 2021 Global Sustainability Index Institute Report looked at the number of sustainable development goal statements in the annual reports of 400 of the world’s largest businesses and found that sustainability goals had more than doubled. The reasons for the increase? Company performance benefitted, and stakeholders were interested in sustainability.

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