10 Environmentally Friendly Bubble Wrap Alternatives
Whether you’re moving house or putting things in storage, you want to protect your precious things. But there’s no point saving your stuff for a lifetime of use if the packaging you protected it in costs the planet.
Bubble wrap has been the go-to packaging solution since the 1950s - but those air bubbles we all love to pop are made of plastic. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the oceans than fish so you definitely don’t want to add to the mess.
Truly recyclable bubble wrap is hard to come by because the plastic it contains is not biodegradable (it can take up to 1000 years to decompose!). Most ends up in landfill, and most councils' recycling program won’t recycle it.
You CAN drop it in the plastic bag recycling point at most supermarkets - visit Recycle Now to find your nearest local recycling facility.
If you know you’re going to need to pack up your stuff soon, start saving any bubble wrap or other packaging materials that your online shopping arrives in; reusing is always better than recycling.
If you don’t have a saved up stock of packaging products, Stashbee has the 10 best eco friendly packaging alternatives to bubble wrap that won’t cost the earth.
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1. Use your clothes, towels and other household itemsIf you’re moving house, using small items of clothing to cushion fragile items and fill the gaps around items (void spaces) is the most sustainable solution.
- Towels are perfect for cushioning larger items (try wrapping framed pictures or the TV). Use tea towels to wrap mugs and as a cushion between plates or bowls to absorb shocks.
- Small items like socks, tops and underwear are eco friendly void fillers. Yes it’s a bit of a pain when you unpack the kitchen and end up with a load of clothes destined for your bedroom in the wrong place, but it all needs moving anyway and it’s free.
- Wrap fragile items in paper first so if anything breaks you don’t end up with shards of glass in your smalls.
- House Method and Apartment Therapy have tips on how to use clothes for packing including using pillows for cushioning and bags of rice or beans as eco friendly void fillers.
2. Repurpose newspapers or magazines: wrap, scrunch, twist or shred.The cheapest, easiest and most DIY solution is to use old newspapers.
- If you buy a physical paper, start building up a stash ahead of when you need to pack up. Even if you never buy a paper yourself, you can find free newspapers at stations in most towns and cities.
- You can wrap items in the paper (here’s a video tutorial), scrunch up pages into balls to fill the space between items as an alternative to packing peanuts or to fill the inside of glasses and mugs.
- Twist the paper to make longer, flexible shapes to fit around items and cushion them.
- Use shredded paper as void fill and for shock absorbency by stopping things from moving around. The newspaper is fully recyclable once you’ve finished with it!
3. Packing paper AKA kraft paperIf you don’t have a stack of newspapers or magazines on hand, you can buy packing paper relatively cheaply.
Kraft paper is a great wrap alternative to protect furniture from dings. You can wrap anything in it, it’s plastic free, recyclable and biodegradable.
4. Paper bubble wrapPaper bubble wrap is a great bubble wrap alternative. It has deep indentations for cushioning but is 100% recyclable and biodegradable so you don’t have to feel guilty about protecting your fragile items. If you're looking for eco bubble wrap, give paper solutions like this a go.
Looking for an environmentally friendly way to find cardboard boxes as well? Here’s a guide on where you can find them for free.
5. Shredded paperIf you don’t have stacks of newspaper or the will or inclination to shred it yourself, you can buy shredded paper. It’s good for packing into void spaces and cushioning items from moving in transit, plus it’s recyclable and biodegradable.
6. Corrugated cardboard sheetsThese provide great shock absorption, can be wrapped around larger items like tables to protect them from dings and can be used as dividers to separate items in boxes. The sheets are fully recyclable and biodegradable - check that they’re made from sustainable materials for a clean conscience.
7. Hive-style paper wrapHive wrap paper is die cut kraft paper that looks like a honeycomb or a hive. It arrives in a roll but the sheets are expandable and can be shaped around whatever you need to pack and protect. It’s strong, the hexagons interlock meaning you don’t need tape and it can protect the most fragile items. Boasting 100% recyclability and biodegradability it’s a green solution.
8. Loose fill chips AKA packing peanutsLoose fill chips are perfect for void filling and keeping things in place.
- Styrofoam packing peanuts are a thing of the past - you can now buy biodegradable packing peanuts made of wheat or corn starch.
- The chips fill the space and gaps around items protecting them from shock and movement.
- Most will dissolve in water but if you bin them, make sure you put them in a biodegradable bag so they can decompose.
- Wikihow has good advice on how to use packing peanuts.
9. Biodegradable bubble wrap and air pillowsSeveral UK companies sell biodegradable bubble wrap. It will protect your things in the same way as bubble wrap but breakdown into carbon dioxide, water and biomass rather than hanging about for centuries polluting the planet.
Just don’t bin it in a plastic bag. Biodegradable air pillows cushion fragile items really well but most need equipment to inflate.
Eco Packaging Solutions sell pre-inflated air pillows that dissolve in water when you’re finished with them.
Packing up for a move? Here’s our moving house checklist so you don’t forget anything.
10. Mushroom packagingMushroom packaging is possibly the future - even IKEA is using it! UK based Magical Mushroom Company sells packaging in specific shapes. It’s a more expensive option than many but, if you have a cellar of vintage wine you need to move safely, it could be the answer.
Where to buyGoogling any of these eco friendly bubble wrap alternatives will give you dozens of options for where to buy but check the green credentials of any company you buy from. It’s worth checking Facebook marketplace to see if anyone locally is giving away or selling unwanted packing materials - reusing is best after all.
If you’re on the hunt for a storage space, Stashbee has thousands of spaces all over the country to choose from. Check out spaces here.
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13th Jan 2023
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