Environmentally Friendly Packaging: Paper Void Fill vs Air Void Fill & Bubble Wrap

Paper or Plastic? Paper Void Fill or Air Void Fill/Bubble Wrap? This is the question that’s getting asked throughout the world as global concerns for our environment continue to grow; especially when is comes to environmentally friendly packaging and void fill. And rightly so! As leaders and advocates throughout our industries, all of us should be taking the responsibility to ensure we are doing what is best.

With the rise of e-commerce and it’s even greater surge through the 2020/2021 pandemic, parcels and packaging have grown in large demand and continue to do so; this includes void fill packaging with it.  

However, when it comes to void fill packaging, businesses are leaning towards paper void fill over bubble packaging and air packaging. The current debate is paper void fill vs bubble wrap void fill but how sure are you that paper void fill is 100% the correct way to go?

Here at Clingfoil, we offer the full package for your commercial packaging requirements, including void fill packaging. So we’ve been digging into the void fill side of our business and researching on the paper void fill vs bubble wrap debate when it comes to environmentally friendly packaging

We want to share with you our discoveries.

Paper Void Fill – Environmentally Friendly Packaging

The advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

Customer Perception: Currently, the public and your customers’ perception is very important as they receive your products. Naturally, Paper Void Fill holds a better perception at present when they open their parcel. Suppliers are also making large switches to paper void fill, resulting in the majority of packaging slowly transitioning over to paper void fill. You’ll begin to notice that receiving air void fill in the post is becoming a little bit more of a shock when you see it, being less frequent than previously. 

Recyclable: With such large varieties available within paper void fill, lot’s of the options are all recyclable. This isn’t the case with other void fills. Although other types of void fill, such as bubble void fill and air void fill, do have recyclable options, the scope isn’t as large as paper void fill’s recyclable options. 

Easily customisable: Branding is very important in our world. In fact, brand is almost everything when it comes to successful businesses. Branding your packaging allows for further confidence and repetition. With paper void fill, branding stays easy. Paper void fill is the easiest type of void fill to imprint your brand onto and can be supplied in a variety of colours to further enhance your products and the customer experience. 

paper void fill
Paper void fill

Disadvantages

Expensive: Naturally, there is more material in paper void fill over air void fills. Air, for example can be up to 99% air itself rather than material. As a result, paper void fills tend to be more expensive. 

Compression leads to more material: certainly for heavier products, paper void fills require excessive material in order to properly protect the item during transport. The result is more expense, more waste and less environmentally friendly packaging – should it not get recycled. 

Adds weight to parcel: Unlike air void fill, paper is made up of 100% materialism and therefore consists of more weight per parcel. This weight combined leads to higher travel expenses and is also worse for the environment. 

Not as protective: Although paper void fill adds a layer of protection, due to it’s compression and wear, it doesn’t offer the same level protection as air or bubble void fill, resulting in less protected products. This could result in having to resend parcels, which has a knock on effect to the environment. 

Energy consumption: The manufacturing process for making paper over plastic consumes up to 4x as much energy. More fuel during manufacturing results in worse effects on our environment. (http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php?id)

Inefficient recycling: To recycle paper void fill, more fuel must be consumed than what is used during a new bag manufacturing process. The result in this is counter-productive to the environment while recycling paper and therefore less environmentally friendly than you’d expect. 

More waste: in comparison to Air and bubble void fills; of which can contain up to 99% air, paper void fills have on average 80% more material and as a result, produce this much more waste when finished with. 

Biodegrading difficulties: If the paper void fill doesn’t reach the point of recycling, and instead goes straight into landfill, the biodegrading of paper isn’t far from plastic itself. 

Air Void Fill and Bubble Wrap Packaging – Environmentally Friendly Packaging

The advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

Cost Effective: As previously mentioned, the material usage in air void fill and bubble wrap packaging is much less than other styles of void fill. So although the same volume of void fill space is being covered, the material itself is being saved on drastically. 

Great Protection: The correct air and bubble void fill solution for your product offers some of the best protection during transport to your customer. The absorption of impact is second to none when prepared properly. 

Saves Storage: Air void fill and bubble wrap packaging require inflation before the packing process, but this means that up to 99% of the space it holds is just the air around us! Meaning that storage or large volumes of air void fill and bubble wrap is much more spacious than other styles of packaging void fill. 

Lightweight: Once again, consisting of up to 99% air, the air void fill and bubble void fill you would use within your packaging process would be close to weight-less! This is a great benefit for transporting goods – but less weight during transport also means less strain on the vehicles and therefore less carbon produced during transport as well. 

Growing Recyclable Options: As the circular economy continues to expand and grow, we are always moving forward in creating a better recycling process for more materials. The focus at the moment is plastics and slowly but surely, the recycling networks in the UK are getting more efficient at recycling plastics. Unlike paper, which each time the paper is pulped and processed for fresh use, the fibres within it get a little shorter, and eventually it is no longer suitable to be recycled again; Plastics can get recycled hundreds and hundreds of times so should be classed as environmentally friendly packaging. Paper is only able to be recycled between 4-6 times. (https://commercialwaste.trade/how-many-times-can-paper-be-recycled/

Double Cushion void fill
air cushion

Disadvantages

Usually requires machinery: Unlike paper void fill, air void fill and bubble wrap packaging will usually require machinery to inflate. This does mean an outlay of the machinery plus maintenance, training and health & safety. However, the air void fill machines are cost effective and easy to use. 

Heavy or sharp – not suitable: Sometimes, certain products just aren’t suitable for air void fill or bubble wrap packaging. Something too heavy could burst the air/bubble void fill or something sharp will easily tear and deflate it. 

Danger to wildlife: If not properly disposed of, the damage to the environment and wildlife due to plastics is not acceptable. Right now, as many as 51 trillion pieces of plastic are in the ocean. More than 700 marine species are known to be killed as a result of plastics in the ocean ever year. (https://www.aquarium.co.za/blog/entry/the-plastic-problem-how-does-plastic-pollution-affect-wildlife)

Biodegrading difficulties: As we know, experts say that it can take from 500-1,000 years for some plastics to biodegrade. The correct time is still unknow because plastics are still a relatively new invention, however, biodegrading is an issue with plastics if they are not able to be recycled. https://www.savemoneycutcarbon.com/learn-save/how-long-does-it-take-for-plastic-to-biodegrade/

Less recycling options: Although the circular economy is improving year-on-year, our recycling network in the UK isn’t yet near full efficiency and not enough plastics are yet being recycled. Air void fill and bubble wrap packaging are not yet within an efficient nationwide recycling process. 

Paper Void Fill VS Bubble Wrap: Our Conclusion to Environmentally Friendly Packaging

All of these factors lead us to a slightly different conclusion than what people are being led to believe long-term. Right now, throughout the UK, paper does have a more efficient recycling process and therefore at present, paper is in ways currently better for the environment. 

However, as the circular economy continues to expand within the UK, plastic packaging is becoming a more frequent recycled packaging product with better long-term sustainability, cost effectiveness and better for the environment. 

We’d love to know your thoughts on this matter. 

In the meantime, if you do have any void fill requirements for your packaging solutions, Clingfoil offer the full package solution for all of your packaging requirements; as well as a FREE packaging audit. One of our specialist packaging experts will audit your current packaging process and help put together a more cost effective, more environmentally friendly packaging option.

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Need more details?

For more details on our full range of Environmentally Friendly Packaging options, please call us on 01625 878953 or complete our contact form.