While preparing your products for shipment, it’s likely you’ll need some type of void fill material or cushioning to keep your items safe during transit. There are a lot of options for void fill and cushioning, so it can be difficult to identify which choice is right for your application. To make it easier on you, we’ve got a definitive guide to void fill and cushioning products outlined below. You can take a look at all the different options available for your void fill and cushioning needs, and then you can select the right solution for your business.

What is Void Fill?

Void Fill is the type of material you use, whether it’s air pillows or kraft paper, to fill the box’s empty space to provide protection and an attractive unboxing experience. You’ll see void fill being used in corrugated boxes quite often, as well as other applications like mailers. Each type of void fill offers different advantages and challenges to your packaging strategy, so you’ll want to choose your methods carefully.

Types of Void Fill and Cushioning

Paper

Paper is a void fill and cushioning product that helps you solve multiple issues within your packaging strategy. Paper is a good void filler that can be crinkled up to eliminate empty space inside the box. You can get creative with paper void fill by turning it into shreds for a more attractive unboxing experience. There are plenty of paper crumpling machines that can be installed on your workstations for automation purposes.

Paper also provides good protection for products inside the box, especially when used to wrap individual items. You can protect delicate objects by wrapping them in paper, and then you can fill any leftover void space with more crumpled paper. As you can see, paper has a number of applications in void fill and cushioning.

This type of void fill and cushioning is a great option for e-commerce, especially with brands that advertise about sustainability and recycling. The paper used for packaging is usually 100 percent recyclable and often made with recovered materials, to begin with. Consumers who are concerned about green packaging will greatly appreciate your use of paper.

Bubble

We’ve all experienced joy while popping little air bubbles on our next type of void fill. Bubble wrap is a common void fill and cushioning product that’s used for multiple applications. You can find bubble wrap sold in continuous rolls or in pouch form. Sometimes, bubble wrap is sold with a sticky adhesive side to help it wrap around products and hold to itself for greater security.

This type of void fill and cushioning material is a wonderful option for fragile items because it has a lot of unique benefits, such as being moldable and providing a high level of protection. You can select the perfect amount for filling a box or surrounding items. Bubble pouches are also available in multiple sizes to make the packaging process run even smoother.

While bubble wrap has been popular in the past, it is slowly declining due to one of its greatest flaws: recyclability. As modern consumers become more aware of their packaging materials and how they affect the environment, the need for recyclable materials is becoming more inevitable. Bubble wrap is not being manufactured with a high percentage (or any percentage) of recyclable materials. It’s also rare that a consumer would know how to recycle their bubble wrap if they chose to worry about it at all.

Foam

While foam can be used as a void fill material, it’s more often used to provide cushioning for a product. Foam cushioning comes in many different formats, including pouches, sheets, and more. Foam is good for products that can’t be scratched. Other void fill materials, such as paper, do not provide protection against scratches.

Foam sheets can be layered between products that are stacked within a box. One common application of this method can be seen in the cookware industry where plates and pans are often packaged with foam sheets between each piece of a set. Foam pouches can be used to fully envelop an item for incredible protection. A foam pouch can be sealed with tape or by heat.

Another unique type of foam cushioning is called Instapak. This type of foam expands up to 27 times its size once activated by hand at room temperature. You can use this to cushion almost any type of product, regardless of size. It provides durable cushioning and bracing inside the box for heavier items.

Peanuts

Peanuts, like bubble wrap, are one of those void fill options that are declining in popularity. They are difficult to recycle and are often an annoyance to most consumers because they have a tendency to stick to other surfaces. Peanuts are made of expanded plastic that’s been created with an injection of air.

Peanuts do provide effective protection, but they also require a lot of warehouse space compared to other materials like paper or air pillows (before they are filled). Peanuts cannot be kept compact before use, so you’ll have to keep a designated amount of space for them.

Peanuts are also quite difficult to recycle. Many consumers are not going to take the extra steps it would require for them to recycle this void fill material. However, peanuts can be made with recycled materials unlike bubble wrap, which is not often made with recovered materials. Lush serves as a good example of a company that has transformed peanuts to be more eco-friendly, but they are one of the only companies that come to mind.

Air Pillows

Anyone who has received an Amazon box has opened it up to find air pillows inside. This void fill and cushioning option is quickly rising to the top of the packaging industry and is being used by many e-commerce companies. Air pillows are thin sheets of plastic that are pumped with air, sealed by heat, and then used to pad products within a box. They are frequently stored in compact rolls of plastic sheeting before being inflated by an automatic machine.

Air pillows provide a high level of protection and they can fill the empty space of a box to help brace products inside. Air pillow machines are often small in nature and they can be easily integrated into the work station. Many suppliers and distributors can offer custom perforated rolls at your desired length, so you always get the exact number of air pillows you need for your specific application.

Tissue Paper

While tissue paper is not great for protecting products, it does offer one of the most attractive unboxing experiences. Depending on the positioning of your brand, tissue paper might be a viable option for improving consumers impressions of your products. You’ll see this material used often in the clothing industry or to enhance the appearance of luxury goods.

Hopefully, we’ve given you a better understanding of what void fill and cushioning products are available for your application. When choosing a void fill or cushioning material to go into your boxes, you’ll want to consider the impact it will have on your level of protection and presentation. Both may be critical aspects of your packaging strategy when working with void fill materials.