Is there an eco-friendly alternative to bubble wrap?

Is there an eco-friendly alternative to bubble wrap?
There is plenty of evidence to show that consumers dislike the use of plastic (especially single-use plastic) and feel strongly that companies could do more to reduce this type of waste. Global and national surveys routinely find that this is an important issue to around ⅔ of the public, most of whom feel that not enough is being done to tackle plastic waste. 

Many consumers would be prepared to pay a little more money for products that have been packaged sustainably. There are a number of sustainable packaging trends you could investigate, to entice eco-conscious customers and retain your existing customer base. Among them is finding eco-friendly alternatives to bubble wrap. 

Eco friendly bubble wrap 

Bubble wrap is perhaps the most commonly used packaging material, especially in the online retail market, yet traditional bubble wrap is not biodegradable. Since bubble wrap works by encasing loose products inside pockets of air, it’s extremely effective at filling empty box space (‘void filling’) and cushioning items against damage. Any eco-friendly alternative to bubble wrap will need to have the same key benefits and features, whilst being biodegradable or fully recyclable.

Here are some of the best alternatives to bubble wrap currently available.

1. Biodegradable bubble wrap

Biodegradable bubble wrap does exist. Eco bubble wrap is 100% recyclable and oxo-biodegradable, meaning that it will degrade within a few months of disposal. It’s waterproof and protects products in exactly the same way as standard bubble wrap. To ensure that customers know that you’re using eco bubble wrap, you could add a note to your packages as well as making it clear on your website and ordering forms that the items will be packaged responsibly.

2. Alternatives to bubble wrap for void fill

If you don’t have the capacity to offer boxes of different sizes to fit your products and need to fill empty space to prevent breakages, consider eco friendly void fill as an alternative to bubble wrap. Biodegradable void fill chips (often known as packaging peanuts) can be made of potato starch and cellulose fibres that are compostable, unlike traditional void fill made of polystyrene.

Alternatively, you could stuff any void in your packaging with natural alternatives such as straw, paper or even plain popcorn. 

3. Alternatives to bubble wrap for large items

Large items such as furniture could be wrapped in moving blankets or fabric that is commonly recyclable or can be reused by your customers. Have a look into how much extra this would cost, and how much of that price you could pass onto customers wishing to avoid single-use plastics - and bear in mind the PR value of offering eco-friendly packaging. 

If it’s too costly to wrap items in fabric, using moving blankets is also worth considering for storing your own stock and equipment safely without using bubble wrap unnecessarily.

4. Corrugated cardboard

This is easily and commonly recycled, and effectively protects products from damage due to its structural integrity and strength. The downside to this choice is that, unlike bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard isn’t waterproof, so use with caution in our climate.

5. Seaweed

Seaweed packaging is biodegradable - it breaks down quicker than fruit - and processing it actually absorbs lots of carbon dioxide. It’s one of the up-and-coming natural packaging alternatives to bubble wrap, along with mushroom packaging, that it’s hoped will become mainstream and widely available in the near future.

Customers are growing increasingly irritated by the use of plastics in business, and are much more discerning about how to spend their money. Becoming recognised by those customers as an eco-friendly business is entirely possible, through schemes such as the Sustainability Awards, the Sustainable Business Awards and the Green Achiever scheme. 

It’s never too late to start - see what works best for your business, both for packaging products to be sent to your eco-conscious customers, and/or within your offices and warehouses. 

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