Plastic is such a versatile substance when it comes to packaging materials. We would expect it to provide good surface protection when shipping items - after all, plastic protects just about everything we buy at a store these days. But plastic packaging materials will also provide you with excellent cushioning and void-fill potential. Familiarizing yourself with the properties of some common plastic packaging materials will help you to ship packages with surface, cushioning and void-fill protection in the appropriate amounts to ensure that your item is protected from harm.
- We all know about Styrofoam peanuts, but sometimes forget that this is a form of plastic packaging material, as are the other foam packaging materials (more on that toward the end of the article). Use it for proper void-fill protection. Remember to pack the peanuts tightly around your item (that means beneath the item, too!) and fill your box with them - ultimately over the top of the brim. This way, as the weight and movement of the package causes the peanuts to settle, they will still ensure a tight fit that minimizes dangerous movement and shifting inside your package.
- Plastic bubble sheets, commonly known as "bubble wrap," offer definite surface protection and some cushioning as well. These sheets won't offer very good protection for a heavy item, since the bubbles can pop, but for lighter items this plastic packaging material will do nicely. Don't be stingy wrapping it around your item, though; the separation of bubbles on the sheet means that areas of your package won't always be protected by simply one layer of bubble wrap.
- Another common plastic packaging material is the plastic airbag. If you've ordered anything from Amazon, chances are you've seen these filling up the space in a box. They can serve as void-fill and cushioning; they take up space to minimize movement of your items, and the air inside of them offers some protection from shock and impact. When it comes to your packages, make sure your item is not too heavy if you're relying on these airbags for any cushioning power. Sharp, pointy edges of an item can puncture the bag as well. This kind of plastic packaging material will provide enough cushioning for books and CDs coming from Amazon, for example, but probably won't do the trick for your solid bronze chicken-foot (don't look at me - it's your family heirloom). Keep in mind, also, that changes in temperature and pressure can affect the cushioning quality of these particular plastic packaging materials.
- There is a whole subdivision of plastic packaging material - foam - for which a separate article has been written. When it comes to the chicken-foot, you may not want to rely exclusively on bubble wrap or air bags; foam can provide a more serious layer of cushioning protection, used in conjunction with the void-fill packaging material like air bags or Styrofoam peanuts. To learn more about Styrofoam, Polyethylene and Polyurethane foam packaging, foam-in-place and engineered foam, please read "How To Use Foam Packaging Materials."
Remember to employ surface protection, cushioning and void-fill to guarantee the safety of your item. Plastic packaging materials can satisfy each of those three needs.