When it comes to eliminating the void space inside boxes and cartons, there are a lot of options out there. Two of the most popular void fill solutions are paper and air pillows. Both of these cushioning products provide numerous benefits to your packaging operations, but there are also a few challenges you should be aware of for each. To help make your selection process easier, let’s dive into some of the benefits and challenges associated with paper void fill and air pillows.

PAPER

Paper is a classic void fill solution that is affordable and efficient in most applications. Many customers appreciate the use of paper void fill because it’s a natural option that’s fully recyclable. Other cushioning products like air pillows or peanuts are not easily recycled or biodegraded like paper. Many consumers also associate paper with a higher quality product and find it more attractive than air pillows, so using paper can help improve your product presentation in some situations.

When it comes to protecting fragile or delicate items in shipping and storage environments, paper certainly does the trick. It’s also made to be non-abrasive, so you won’t have to worry about it scratching surfaces or leaving marks on your product. When using paper, it can be crumpled up to conform to almost any shape you need it to fill. You can also use sheets of paper for layering between pallet loads or different parts. There’s also a variety of paper void fill products available, including some with special coatings to protect against moisture, grease, and oil.

Thought paper offers a ton of benefits for your packaging operations, it’s important to note a few challenges you might experience when working with it. Often, companies using paper void fill will find they go through a lot of material very quickly.  It requires more paper material to fill larger voids, which can add to the total cost of your packaging. Some types of paper can be quite expensive as well, so if the cheaper versions don’t work in your favor, they might not be the right solution. Also keep in mind that while paper is reusable and recyclable, many end users still end up sending it to landfills rather than recycling it.

AIR PILLOWS

Air pillows have been around a few years but are still considered a new innovation to most of the packaging industry. Air pillows have slowly been growing in popularity, especially with major retailers like Amazon using them heavily in their packaging operations. Air pillows will typically provide better protection than other types of void fill, which makes them attractive to those who need durable protection. There are different styles of air pillows available depending on your application, so it's easy to find what you need. 

To create an air pillow, users will need an air pillow machine and some plastic film. The film is inflated and heat sealed by the machine to form either a classic air pillow or something called bubble on demand, which mimics traditional bubble wrap. Air pillows come in all different sizes to accommodate any type of product. The material and the machine used to create them is extremely compact, which helps keep workstations less cluttered and warehouses more organized.

Air pillows allow you to create void fill on demand, which helps speed up packaging operations and limit the amount of material needed. Most of films available are supplied pre-perforated so you can simply fill them up and tear them off without using a cutter. Air pillows are also virtually weightless, so they can create strong protection without adding extra weight to the package. This helps your save on shipping and freight costs in the long run. 

While air pillows seem to have a lot of amazing benefits, they don’t come without their own pitfalls. Air pillows are typically much more expensive than other void fill options, but keep in mind that you could be cutting your materials usage drastically. By doing so, you could still see some cost savings over time. Air pillows are also harder to recycle, so they are not very eco-friendly. Some customers also feel that air pillows are less attractive than paper or tissue, so keep that in mind if your product presentation is important for your business.

As you can see, paper and air pillows are two completely different void fill and cushioning solutions for industrial packaging. While both offer advantages for different packaging operations, you should be able to see which right for your application. Feel free to browse all the different options when it comes to paper void fill and air pillows here at The Packaging Group, and give us a call if you want professional help solving your packaging needs today.