Packaging is one of the most important parts of transporting your products – even more so when it is protective packaging and not just aesthetic packaging. Protective packaging ensures that your products arrive intact, undamaged, and in a condition that will satisfy your customers. But with all the different options, choosing the right packaging for your products may be hard. So, today, we’ll be diving into the best type of protective packaging for your products!
When to Use Protective Packaging
First things first: when do you need to use protective packaging? Basically, you want to use protective packaging whenever you have a product that you want to protect from damage during shipping. Obviously, this includes fragile items such as china, glass, electronics, and other breakables. However, it may also include items that must be kept in pristine condition. Items include art, furniture, antiques, produce, and hazardous materials. Choosing the right protective packaging type for your product could save a lot of money and time. All while providing your product with even better protection.
Types of Protective Packaging
Now that we’ve covered when you should use protective packaging let’s dive into the details of the different types of protective packaging.
There are five main types of protective packaging you should familiarize yourself with:
- Packing peanuts, aka loose fill
- Bubble wrap
- Air pillows, aka airbags
- Packing paper
- Packing foam
Each of these types suits different types of packages, which is why you want to read up on how to use them.
Packing Peanuts (Loose Fill)
Packing peanuts, or loose fill, are just what they sound like: small pieces of protective packaging used to fill up empty space around and between fragile products. Because of their small size, they can cushion items – especially in irregularly shaped containers that may not be able to fit other types of protective packaging. On the upside, they are lightweight, affordable and resistant to moisture and temperature changes.
On the downside, they can attract static, which may create electric charges and possibly harm electronics. Regarding material, packing peanuts are typically made from Styrofoam, which contains styrene and benzene. These petroleum byproducts make packing peanuts non-biodegradable and hard to recycle. They are also harmful to the environment in general. However, there are some packing peanuts that are made from biodegradable materials, such as corn starch. These might be harder to find since styrofoam packing peanuts are much more common, but they are exponentially better for the environment. Packing peanuts are generally best for glass, metals, and other fragile, irregularly shaped items.
Bubble wrap, or air cellular cushioning material, is a flexible and durable sheet containing air bubbles. Because of its flexibility, you can wrap it around items of any shape. And because of its durability, you can use it to wrap pointed or sharp objects. Due to its air bubbles, bubble wrap is amazing at insulating items and protecting against any vibrations or shocks. It is lightweight, affordable, and comes in various bubble sizes and forms – including anti-static bubble wrap specially made for electronics! However, it is bulky and can only protect against light shocks.
In terms of material, bubble wrap is made from polyethylene (PET) film. That makes it resistant to moisture and temperature changes but hard to recycle. However, compared to another plastic protective packaging, bubble wrap is highly reusable, so it can be a more sustainable option if you really need to use plastic. In general, bubble wrap is best for fragile and irregularly shaped objects, such as glass, furniture, art, and electronics.
Air Pillows (Air Bags)
Air pillows, or airbags, fit their name exactly: plastic bags inflated with air. You will see the use of it to fill empty spaces in a package. You can use them as sheets or break them into individual bags. The upside to airbags is that they’re lightweight, affordable, and good at insulating and absorbing shocks. The downside to airbags is that they’re bulky, static-prone, and vulnerable to sharp objects.
In terms of material, air pillows are still made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) film, which is a fossil fuel by-product. Recycling is only available at special recycling facilities. Reusing or recycling can be a decent option if you need to use plastic. Air pillows are generally best for breakables, produce, hazardous materials, and anything without sharp corners.
Packing paper is a category of paper that is thick and strong, with craft paper being the most commonly used type. It usually comes in rolls, which makes them easy to store. The advantages of packing paper are that it is lightweight, affordable, and easy to use for either wrapping objects or filling empty spaces. Some disadvantages are that packing paper is not resistant to moisture or extreme heat. Packing densely is important, or it will also get dusty and may not absorb shocks.
Packing paper is typically made from wood pulp or sulfate pulp. This makes it reusable, recyclable, and even sustainable if sourced responsibly. In general, packing paper is best for silverware, china, glass, art, and other small, smooth objects.
Packing Foam Packaging
Packing foam is one of the biggest categories for packaging materials. It includes foam sheets, rolls, and egg crates, among others. It is easily cut, making it ideal for items that need custom packaging. There are also various choices for the firmness of the packing foam, so you can definitely find a foam dense enough for your product’s protection. Coating provides protection from shocks, dust, moisture, temperature, UV rays, and even static electricity. It is also lightweight, low-odor, and crack-resistant. That said, it is bulkier and more expensive than Styrofoam products, such as packing peanuts. And in terms of material, packing foam is typically made from polyurethane or polyethylene (PET), making it hard to recycle. In general, packing foam is best for china, glass, electronics, and other expensive products that need the utmost protection.