Feb 13th, 2021
Updated: Jan 4th, 2023
5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives For Bubble Wrap
Every day, boxes full of bubble wrap arrive on people's doorsteps. It may take you back in time to when you were a little kid and loved the satisfaction of popping every bubble. Or, it may make you wonder, what are they doing to our environment?
Bubble wrap is recyclable, but not in the same way cardboard boxes are. Bubble wrap sheets are made from No. 4 low-density polyethylene film (LDPF). It is the same plastic used to make plastic wrap and plastic grocery bags, which most municipal recycling programs do not accept curbside. The plastic can clog recycling machinery which causes time, money, and damage issues.
To help combat this, here are five different packaging materials you can use if you want a sustainable alternative to bubble wrap.
1. Kraft Paper
Kraft paper is a packaging material that gets its name from the Kraft pulping process, developed by Carl F. Dahl in the 1880s. ‘Kraft' in German means strength, which is part of the reason why it's a popular packaging option- it will keep the contents of the package safe.
Kraft paper is FSC certified, which means the wood used in the product, and the manufacturer that made it, met the requirements of the Forest Stewardship Council. It is also naturally biodegradable and you can easily measure how much you need so that you won't waste product.
2. Corrugated Wrap
The first use of corrugated cardboard was back in the mid-19th century to keep tall top hats straight. It's made from 100% recyclable materials and is reusable. Even after its destination is reached, corrugated can be recycled and used for the same purpose all over again.
The board itself is made from a combination of two sheets of paper called liners that are glued together with an adhesive to a corrugated inner medium. These papers are stiffened to create cardboard or thinned to create a more flexible paper sheet.
3. Green Wrap
GreenWrap offers similar cushioning and padded protection as bubble wrap but is naturally biodegradable, compostable, SFI-certified, and fully recyclable. It's made of two layers of hexagonal-cut kraft paper, with a layer of tissue paper in between. GreenWrap is one of the more aesthetically pleasing packaging options due to its unique honeycomb shape and variety of colors.
4. Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
Since the beginning of the styrofoam ban in the 90s, companies have been switching to biodegradable packing peanuts. Biodegradable packing peanuts are made from naturally derived starches like wheat and cornstarch. Entirely plant-based, they will dissolve in water, making it impossible for them to wind up polluting lakes, rivers, oceans, or waterways.
Cornstarch packing peanuts are nearly identical to styrofoam ones in look and function. They help to prevent movement and cushion against shock, making them a great option for fragile products.
5. Mushroom Packaging
Believe it or not, mushrooms are entering the packaging scene. They are a fairly recent alternative to both bubble wrap and styrofoam, as it resembles foam. It's made of fungus roots and residues from farming. Manufacturers actually grow the packaging around a mold, so it will shape to fit any product.
Mushroom packaging is also stronger than its foam predecessor, and is flame resistant. More importantly, it's completely renewable and biodegradable. In fact, you can compost it at home, breaking it down into non-toxic, organic matter.