Different Types of Protective Packaging Materials and their Usage

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What is Protective Packaging?

In simple words, protective packaging supplies are materials design to protect and buffer a product from potential harm or damage during warehousing and transportation. Technically speaking, protective packaging may be made from any material including but not limited to cardboard, plastic, metal, and etc.

Protective packaging is often used as the primary form of a product’s packaging or as a secondary form of packaging supply depending upon the product. It is useful for various applications, however, all forms of protective packaging are used for the same purpose: ensuring that a product arrives in the right condition without any damage.

In the modern world, there are the following types of packaging materials:

1. Bubble wrap

Bubble wrap is made by trapping air bubbles in between two plastic sheets. It is designed to protect and cushion fragile and expensive items during their shipping.

Bubble wrap cuts to wrap products of virtually any shape or size. Generally, it is not recommended for heavyweight products. Multiple layers might be needed to provide better isolation and protection of the product, including its corners and edges.

2. Loose-fill materials

Loose-fill packaging materials are made from geofoam or bioplastic. They are used for filling up empty space in a box containing lightweight, non-fragile items. Polystyrene peanuts hold the items inside a box in place. In between the items, flat pieces of corrugated fiberboard can be used to prevent movement of items in the polystyrene chips.

Loose-fill materials are not recommended for flat and narrow items that can move or shift within the package. Polystyrene peanuts cause static electricity and may damage electronic items. Anti-static peanuts or mylar should be used for such products.

3. Styrofoam

Light, soft, and resilient styrofoam sheets provide excellent surface protection and cushioning. It is ideal for protecting lightweight products.

4. Air pillows

Air pillows use air pressure to protect the items inside the container and form an air barrier. Extreme climate conditions can affect the amount of air pressure inside the pillows. At low temperatures, air pressure decreases, whereas at high temperatures air pillows may start to expand, which can cause damage to the product or the container.

5. Foam-in-place

Foam-in-place is created by a mixture of chemicals that expand, thus forming a protective layer around the items. Foam-in-place supports corners and edges and is very convenient where cushioning is needed. To maximize effectiveness, foam-in-place must be evenly placed around the items. It is also important to select the appropriate density of the foam. The most commonly used foam materials are Polystyrol, polyurethane, and polyethylene. Polystyrol is less resilient, therefore it is not recommended for fragile products. Polyethylene is ideal for valuable and fragile items. Polyurethane is more suitable for lightweight goods.

6. Kraft paper

High strength, cellulosic-gel-containing Kraft paper is wrapped and crumpled to fill empty space inside a package with light-to-medium weight, non-fragile items.

7. Paper

Multilayered paper is ideal for packaging medium-to-large-sized, non-fragile items that require moisture protection. Paper can also be used for filling empty spaces.

8. Corrugated cardboard

Sheets of three- or five-layer corrugated board can be bound together to form blocks or pads. They can be used as a shield between the product and the container. Corrugated boards are used for non-fragile and heavyweight products. Cardboard can be easily shaped to form trays, liners, partitions, and other parts of the packaging that work to preserve the integrity of the cargo.

9. Mylar (BoPET)

A polyester film is resistant to light, moisture, air; therefore it is highly effective for long-term storage and packaging. The film is recommended for shipping food products, it doesn’t conduct electricity, which allows packaging electronic items for international container shipping.

10. Cellophane

Cellophane is used for food and cigar packing. The most important quality of cellophane is its permeability to moisture; it also doesn’t melt when set on fire.

11. Corrugated plastic

Corrugated plastic is a light material made from propylene that can be easily cut to shape. It is available in a variety of colors and sizes. The common thicknesses are 3, 4, and 5 mm. It is used to form plastic containers and reusable packaging.


12. Stretch film

This thin plastic film sticks to any glass surface and wraps around the items. Its elasticity prevents the package from unwrapping and opening. It is used in air freight transportation to unitize pallet loads. It protects cargo from moisture, dust, dirt, theft, and ultraviolet radiation.

13. Thermoplastic film

The thermoplastic film is used similarly to stretch film, except it is not stretch wrapped around the products. It is applied when heated. The thermoplastic film is made from polyethylene and is used to protect parts of metal constructions from corrosion during transportation. It can be easily wrapped around complex profiles.

14. Glass

Glass containers are used for transporting liquids and some dangerous goods. As a rule, each glass container is placed into plastic containers to prevent contact with another glass container or its packaging.