On the face of it, it might not sound like the most compelling subject matter – but in fact packaging is an industry churning out innovative new products which constantly enhance the way we transport goods. Without effective packaging, we would often find ourselves receiving broken goods – or worse, not receiving them at all. It’s an integral element of logistics and frankly we’d be lost without it. But what types of packaging are there to choose from, what are their specific purposes, and are some better than others?
They say that the old ones are the best – and when it comes to methods of packaging there are several which have been in play for many years and are still widely used today. Scrunched brown paper, newspaper and shredded paper are still popular choices suitable for all types of item – and if you’re using recycled materials, they’re pretty eco-friendly too.
Over the last 50 years, we’ve seen the use of plastic packaging increase ten-fold. That’s partly down to new developments in the industry which make it cheaper to buy, more efficient to make and easier to use. There are many types of plastic packaging – some you’ll be very familiar with, others you may never have heard of. Polystyrene is one such popular choice and has been a stalwart in the packaging world for over half a decade – either in moulded form to fully protect electronic equipment and breakables or the familiar foam particles in varying sizes used in all sorts of parcels.
Bubble wrap is another popular choice for protecting breakables – it’s cheap and there are different sizes of ‘bubble’ to choose from depending on how much padding is required. It’s also versatile; jiffy bags are a great example of clever packaging incorporating bubble-wrap or other plastic padding to protect valuable items whilst remaining nice and compact for easy delivery. The next-generation bubble-wrap doesn’t actually look like bubble-wrap at all, but is in fact comprised of sacks of air like clear balloons which cushion the breakable item. It uses less plastic and fills the space in-between the item and the container much more efficiently using air – much cheaper than plastic!
What does the future hold?
New technology in the packaging world is set to revolutionise the way we send our goods. Many countries are keen on lowering emissions and becoming ‘greener’ – so it’s likely we will see a turn away from plastic packaging in favour of more sustainable materials. We will probably also find a decrease in the use of wasteful unnecessary additions – especially when it comes to our food (take fruit and vegetables for instance, which many argue already come in their own natural packaging!) Packaging is also becoming much more economic – saving the planet (and money for businesses) at the same time. After the intelligent Tetrapak innovations of the early fifties which dramatically changed the way we store and transport food items, we’re now seeing more cleverly created all-in-one containers for a range of items from bottles and jars to books and DVDs. Rather than using large boxes filled with wasted space, the likes of Amazon and other large retailers now use slim sleeves made from cardboard to transport books and CDs with slivers of corrugated card used for protection. On the specialist side, absorbent packaging for freight at risk of leaking is now revolutionising the cargo industry, where before any spillages could spell disaster, delays and decreasing profits for couriers and customers alike.
If you’re ever in doubt as to how to package your parcel or cargo, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Make sure your item is well wrapped and cushioned, especially if it’s breakable. If you’re keen on solutions which are kinder on the earth (and your wallet!) then always remember the old options like paper and card wadding are still as reliable and effective as ever.