Posted on January 27, 2009 by Dennis Salazar

Sustainable Packaging Update – Inflatable Void Fill Solutions

inflatable void fill

The above photo from one of our best vendors, Automated Packaging Systems, is a personal favorite because so rarely does a picture truly demonstrate a product benefit as well as this one. The message of course is that the box of inflatable void fill is the equivalent to the bags of packing peanuts behind the model. Translate that into shipping cost and effectiveness, as well as carbon footprint and you have an overwhelmingly positive advantage for inflatable void fill.

Sustainable Packaging Must Be Application Driven

Readers, customers and vendors know we offer a wide variety of void fill products because the great range and diversity of applications demands it. What you ship, how you ship, where you ship, and how much you ship are all important factors to consider.

I believe however that from a green packaging perspective, the majority of people would agree the most eco friendly void fill solution is probably any form of paper. What’s not to like? It is relatively low cost, dense for shipping and storage purposes, compostable, recyclable, and typically made from recycled materials. There are only three reasons why some customers avoid paper:

  • Paper products can be tough on packers. As any person who packs boxes all day will tell you, paper can be rough on the hands and when manually compacted and formed, it may result in repetitive motion issues.
  • Paper can be dusty and that can be very bad for some products, especially ones that tend to attract dust. Retail customers typically do not want to spend any time cleaning products before putting them on the shelf.
  • Some grades of paper and some large void applications can lead to significantly higher shipping costs. Paper is relatively heavy and there is no getting around that unless its use is absolutely minimized.

Papers Void Fill’s Weaknesses Are Inflatable Void Fill’s Strengths

In addition to the low inbound shipping cost prior to use, inflatable products also tend to be:

  • Extremely clean compared to any other void fill product
  • Light weight to help minimize out bound shipping costs
  • Requires virtually no storage space
  • Efficient from a labor perspective because it is a fast process

Sure, but Inflatable Void Fill Products Are Made of Plastic!

That is obviously and undeniably true, however even plastic void fill has come a long way toward green. For applications where the volume justifies the equipment placements, inflatable void fill requires no capital equipment investment and offers more green options than most void fill products. Here are a few examples of how you can make your plastic void fill greener:

  • Recyclable Void Fill – Regardless of composition, most of these products are easily recyclable and yet few manufacturers bother promoting that recyclable benefit. We print ours with a clear and consistent eco message.
  • Recycled Void Fill – Inflatable pillows made from100% recycled plastic. We were one of the first companies to offer them and make use of this waste. The great part about this option is that they are recyclable as well.
  • Biodegradable Void Fill – It’s been a long time coming but it is here and at a competitive price. If biodegradability is the goal of your green packaging initiative, you can now easily add void fill to your list of accomplishments.

globe guard inflatables
People tend to want clear cut answers and in the area of void fill there are few to be had because of the many application variables. The benefit of working with a knowledgeable distributor with multiple solutions to offer is that we approach an application from solution rather than a product perspective. We will always work to recommend the best solution, not the only one we offer.