It is a relatively rare occurrence when we discuss the fairly mundane world of distribution packaging. Now we are not talking about the package held in a customer’s hand when they pick up a product off the store shelf or the bag pulled out of a box that contains the actual product(see here for more detail on first-level and second-level packaging). Instead, distribution packaging is what is used to surround products as it is shipped to customers, such as when a manufacturer sends a truckload of can goods to a supermarket or an online retailer mails a book order to a consumer. Most of the time, the distribution packaging consists of boxes, crates and shipping envelopes. But contained within these can be other elements of a distribution package, including packing, used to provide additional protection to a product as it moves along the supply chain.
The most recognizable forms of packing include Styrofoam, foam peanuts, straw and even old newspapers. This story from the Washington Post discusses another widely recognizable form of packing – bubble wrap. As packaging stories go, this one is quite interesting. It explains how bubble wrap can now be sent to suppliers without the bubbles. Instead, bubbles can be bumped into the packing by the company that will ship the product.
Why do this? Because bubbles create a lot of wasted space when the manufacturer of bubble wrap ships it to its customers, thus raising shipping costs. This extra space means less of the product can be shipped at one time. Additionally, for purchasers bubble wrap can take up a lot of space in a storage area.
As the story notes, there is one significant drawback of this new bubble wrap; the bubbles it produces are virtually impossible to pop without using a sharp object. So while this packing may have benefits in terms of shipping and storage, it also appears to eliminate what many feel is a fun activity.