As someone close to me moves to another state using plastic trunks rather than cardboard boxes to contain their things, I think about the world of packaging. I had dealt with packing materials in my last job and was made aware of the mechanics of shipping products across the country and the world. While we as individuals can choose to move from place to place with biodegradable materials, as far as I am aware, most companies are stuck with plastic and cardboard at best. When I say plastic, I refer to the weirdly beloved bubble wrap.
I used to enjoy the popping of the wrap just as much as the next person prior to my last job but my point of view has changed. Now I look at the bubble wrap and my mind starts down the path of figuring out how to send something to another place with as little of the stuff as possible. This reaction was born out of a simple resource issue in terms of cost rather than environmentally based. However, this thought of minimal plastic in packaging should be considered when thinking about sustainable changes for the ages to come.
We are in a world of increasing e-commerce where everything we buy has to come to us in individual packaging rather than the bulk pallets sent to stores. These stores could choose to discourage the use of plastic bags by charging the customer for them (such as Aldi stores). However, when we ask Amazon or any other online store to send us product, they must find a way to ship that item in a container that can fit an address label on top and will not break/crack the item inside. Trust me, this can be way more difficult than you might think, especially with anything glass. If the product being shipped doesn’t fit exactly into the box used (it usually doesn’t and isn’t usually supposed to), than it must be prevented from bouncing around inside the shipping container. This mainly involves bubble wrap. While some companies may choose to reuse the bubble wrap that comes with the product from the manufacturer, most shipments tend to use brand new wrap. Guess what happens once that bubble wrap gets to you, the buyer. You probably toss it into the trash. I admit, there really isn’t anything else you can do with it. As far as I am aware, bubble wrap isn’t recyclable. Please let me know if it is so I can start recycling the stuff but for now let’s just pretend that it isn’t able to go in the recycling bin.
Think about the vast amount of packages that pass through Amazon’s warehouses. I would not be surprised to find out that every package being sent out has some amount of plastic in the form of bubble wrap. There must be thousands of feet of bubble wrap going through those doors. Most likely, all of the bubble wrap will get trashed. Now maybe there is less than that depending on the seller and box size versus product size but again it is something to keep in mind for the future. There are cities talking about banning plastic straws and in other cities I believe that plastic bags are banned. If someone really wants to tackle disposable plastic use, they should try to create a biodegradable bubble wrap. As the world increases in e-commerce, more and more individual shipments will be made with ever increasing levels of plastic packaging. If it is possible to create biodegradable bubble wrap, what a difference that would be. For now, if you are looking to move, see if you can limit your bubble wrap use.