What is the Best Packaging Material to Protect against the Spread of Coronavirus?

by Eric Stefan Kandelin Koons on July 23, 2020

In these times SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. The impacts can be seen in almost every industry, including packaging. COVID-19 is spread through bodily fluids, like respiratory droplets, which can be transferred to surfaces that come in contact with multiple people. It may be possible for COVID-19 to be contracted by touching a surface with the virus living on it and then touching one’s own mouth, nose, or eyes [2,4]. This is particularly a concern for packaging, as products transfer between multiple people and are continually in use. This begs the question: what is the best packaging material to use in the time of COVID-19? While there is no concrete, guaranteed answer, aluminum and tinplate have shown promising qualities in multiple ways. 


Virus Lifespan


2 to 8 hours


2 to 6 days


4 days


5 days


5 days


1 day


The lifespan of coronaviruses on aluminum has been found to be between 2 to 8 hours. This is relatively short compared to other materials like: plastic at 2 to 6 days, wood at 4 days, glass and paper up to 5 days, and cardboard at 1 day. Additionally, copper, which is often used in aluminum alloys, has the shortest lifespan of only 4 hours [3]. Aluminum has one of the shortest lifespans for coronavirus and plastic has the longest.The main factor that needs to be considered when reviewing packaging options is the lifespan of the virus on the packaging material. In other words, how long will the virus survive, and be able to transfer the disease, on different materials. Since COVID-19 is a relatively new issue, there are not many studies directly focusing on it, but there are studies available on other coronavirus strains. Additionally, one study found that the stability of COVID-19 was similar to that of SARS-CoV-1 (a different form of coronavirus), and the half-life of both viruses was similar on almost all materials tested [1]. Information on past coronavirus strains can likely be used as a good reference for COVID-19. 

Even though aluminum appears to be the best packaging material, it is reusable. Could it actually be better to use disposable packaging instead to limit the lifespan of the container? In short, no this is not the case. COVID-19 can be found on any object and most disposable containers are made of plastic, which COVID-19 has the longest lifespan on. In restaurants and businesses customers and workers carry their own personal belongings, any of which could have the virus on it. Single-use plastic containers are typically handled by several retail workers before reaching the customer. Whereas, reusable containers provided by restaurants are adequately cleaned and sanitized according to food safety regulations [4]. Furthermore, it is much easier for non-food related businesses to leave their packaging out of human contact for the 8 hours required by aluminum compared to the 6 days required by plastic for any live viruses to die.

Aluminum and tinplate reusable packaging appear to be some of the safest forms of packaging materials to combat the spread of COVID-19. They have the shortest virus lifespan and are reusable, limiting the number of people they come into contact with compared to single-use packaging options. Based on the same criteria plastic single-use packaging is the least preferable packaging method. This being said the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the 

United States has stated that the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 from surfaces is very low and the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is to reduce personal contact [2].



[1] "Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1(2020)", by Liz Hamel , Lunna Lopes, Cailey Muñana, Jennifer Kates , Josh Michaud , and Mollyann Brodie

[2][5]"United States, Congress, Center for Disease Control. What You Should Know about COVID-19 to Protect Yourself and Others, 2020(2020)", by Centers for disease control and prevention

[3] "Faculty Opinions Recommendation of Persistence of Coronaviruses on Inanimate Surfaces and Their Inactivation with Biocidal Agents2020(2020)", by Matthias Maiwald 

[4] "Factsheet on safety of reuse during COVID-19 pandemic (2020)", by Justin Boucher


Topics: COVID-19

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