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Everything you need to know about our bubble wrap
Bubble wrap was invented in 1957 by two Americans called Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding
who were trying to make plastic wallpaper with a paper backing. The wallpaper was
unsuccessful! More importantly though they realised their invention could be used
as a cushioning material so the project resulted in a wonderful material for packaging
and bubble wrap was born. Until then, abrasive paper was the only packaging material,
and it was often useless for heavy or delicate items. The company they founded in
1960 now has a turnover of over $3b.
How is bubble wrap made?
The raw material for bubble wrap is polyethylene. Polyethylene is probably the most
commonly used polymer in everyday life. It is the polymer that is used to make grocery
bags, shampoo bottles, children's toys, and even bullet-proof vests! The polyethylene
enters the bubble wrap factory in a bead form (the size of a small pea).
This beaded polyethylene travels through a corkscrew and is heated (a process known
as extrusion) and melted into a liquid to create a clear, plastic layer. Two flat
layers of film are produced from this process. One layer is passed over a steel
cylinder with holes in it. A powerful vacuum pump inside steel cylinder pulls the
flat polythene layer tight over it to create the bubble. The second flat layer of
film is the passed over the cylinder-laminating itself to the first layer to seal
everything together and make it impossible for air to escape the bubbles.
The two most common sizes of bubble available (large and small) are made using cylinders
with different sized holes. Small bubble has a diameter of 10mm and a height of
4mm per bubble - large bubble has a diameter of 20mm and a height of 7mm.
Bubble wrap is the best way to package fragile and heavy items to ensure they will
not break or chip. Compared to other cushioning materials, bubble wrap holds its
air longer and more consistently. It is also thicker than most cellular cushioning
materials, making it stronger and more durable.
Bubble wrap will also save you money on shipping fragile items. Because you do not
need much bubble wrap to properly secure an item, less material is used to provide
better safety and security for the item.
Bubble wrap also provides some environmental benefits. Not only is it recyclable
at many independent recycling centres, but people can use it over and over without
it reducing its effectiveness. The fact that less material is used for packaging
when you choose bubble wrap also emerges as an environmental benefit.
Manufacturers love bubble wrap because they have found that when they use it for
shipping their products, a much smaller amount of replacements are needed. When
using other packaging materials, the number of replacement items is always elevated.