North American manufacturers of plastic, laminate and metal tubes, mostly for consumer products, shipped 2.8 billion empty packages last year to firms that fill them, according to David R. Archer, a Canadian who is president of the New York-based trade group Tube Council of America.
Archer said the packaging units had a value of $300 million to $325 million, but the volume paled compared with the 6.5 billion tubes made and shipped in Europe.
The North American output is roughly equal among the three materials, with metal's share ``a little less,'' said Archer, vice president and general manager of Twinpak Inc. in Dorval, Quebec.
There is ``movement away from metal'' because it ``doesn't stand up on its own and needs secondary packaging such as a box,'' he said. Often, laminates form commodity toothpaste tubes with plastic layers separated by foil.
The Tube Council represents 13 tube manufacturers and 23 industry suppliers. Typically, tubes package dentifrice, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, household-industrial and food products.
Twinpak had 1996 sales of about $350 million in beverage, flexible, consumer, dairy and food packaging applications.