Packaging Material Types and Uses

There are many different packaging materials available throughout the world. Whether packaging items regularly or only occasionally, there are many choices.
Packaging throughout the world differs significantly and understanding some of the unique types of packaging will help make an informed decision prior to making a purchase.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on a packaging material. Cost is often the primary driver when making a choice. Material costs, machine costs, and implementation including shipping costs can be high, and spending more money than required doesn’t make sense.
Cost shouldn’t be your only consideration, however. Some of the more inexpensive methods and materials may not provide the type of protection your items need. Choosing premium packaging materials and machines on the front end can save money over the long run.
Another consideration when choosing a packaging material is the environmental impact. This may be attributed to governmental regulations or personal conviction. Some packaging is made from recycled materials, some are recyclable, and others are biodegradable. Of course, each option comes with advantages and disadvantages.
Choosing a recycled or biodegradable material is optimal, but at least a recyclable option is worth considering. While not the most environmental choice, it is better than packaging that has to go into a landfill. Depending on where you are shipping the item, recycling may or may not be available. For pick ups, recycling can be limited and even drop off facilities can be challenging to find. The American Chemistry Council has this tool available for finding recycling drop-off locations in your area.

A final consideration when making your choice of packaging material is availability. In many areas, options may be sparse when choosing packaging materials. Corrugated packaging is packaging that is best purchased locally to avoid high shipping costs. Unfortunately, some corrugated options may not be available locally. If your items require special order or custom design, local options may be limited as well.
Be sure the manufacturer assisting with design and production does not charge excessive overages. A benefit of working with one company for production is they can often provide lower costs and offer insight into cutting costs without sacrificing product protection.

Shrink Wrap Packaging

Shrink wrap is used for packaging everything from notebooks to biscuits. Shrink wrap is an excellent packaging material for bundling multiple items. Not only does that prevent them from becoming separated during transit, but it also protects by keeping them from being jostled around and damaged.

Vacuum Packaging

Vacuum packaging is a top choice for packaging foods. By preventing the contents of the package from being exposed to air, consumable products cannot mold, and spoilage is substantially reduced. Materials for vacuum packaging must have oxygen barrier properties. The oxygen barrier reduces the amount of oxygen capable of passing through the material.

Bubble Mailers

Bubble mailers are an excellent choice for smaller items that do not weigh much. The interior bubble wrap does provide decent protection, so most items that fit inside a bubble envelope will be protected during transit. However, bubble mailers do not provide the air and moisture-tight seal that comes with foil-sealed bags. 

Foil Lined Bags

Foil-lined bags have low oxygen transmittal rates and are excellent for food preservation. For small items, foil-sealed bags are affordable and widely available. They are made of a double layer, Co-extruded PET backed with aluminum foil. Once sealed, the objects inside foil-sealed bags are protected from moisture and contamination. They are a popular choice for ingredients and foods due to the barrier protection they provide.

Corrugated Cardboard

Corrugated cardboard is a popular packaging choice because it’s an affordable and protective way to transport items. Corrugated cardboard is layers of paper, with rippled paperboard sandwiched between the layers. This middle layer is what gives corrugated cardboard its strength. 

Corrugated cardboard is available in a variety of thicknesses, from single to triple walled. While multiple layers add to the strength of the packaging, it also adds to the price and weight. Shopping local or regional for corrugated packaging is the best option due to the cost of the product and the shipping costs, which can be more than the boxes.


Not quite as substantial as cardboard, paperboard is an affordable choice if your item is smaller. Paperboard makes a great choice for packaging because it is easily shaped as desired. 

Paperboard can often be recycled and is available in a variety of thicknesses. While paperboard is usually a smart financial choice, it does have some drawbacks. As a packaging material, paperboard will not withstand excessive transportation stress and cause damage if used as primary packaging for parcel carrier transport. The right designed paperboard packaging pops on shelves and can be master packed in more durable corrugated cardboard for easy transport.

Agricultural-Based Packaging 

There are a variety of agriculture-based packaging materials that are environmentally friendly. Cornstarch packaging is manufactured from corn plants and is similar to plastic in look and feel. The resin can be molded into a form for packaging or used as loose-fill cushioning. 

Mushroom packaging is manufactured from agricultural waste. Unlike cornstarch packaging, which uses corn that could otherwise be used as food, mushroom packaging provides a useful way of handling waste. The mushroom waste is cleaned and finely ground, then pressed together with the root system of mushrooms. The result is similar to plastic and can be formed into desired shapes. In addition to using waste materials as the raw material for this type of packaging, the resulting mushroom packaging breaks down quickly. It is easily composted in an at-home garden.  

There are other shipping materials, such as seaweed, that are in the early stages of use as environmentally-friendly shipping options. Expect this market to expand rapidly in the future. Biodegradable waste bags are available and perform well with compost, mulch, and other naturally compostable items. 

Chipboard Packaging 

Chipboard is similar to paperboard; however, it is made from recycled paper products. It has many of the same benefits and drawbacks as paperboard. Because it is made from reclaimed materials, it is more environmentally friendly than paperboard. 

Chipboard is best for packaging lightweight material and for uses where the items will be exposed to limited transportation stress. Chipboard is an economical choice for products that do not require much protection. 

Rigid Packaging

Rigid boxes are the boxes you often see used for high-end electronics and other expensive items. Similar to cardboard, but they have a more polished look and feel. Rigid boxes are made from thick pieces of paperboard. 

Rigid boxes are not an economical choice. They are expensive to make and ship but protective of their contents and create an upscale look.

Rigid boxes are often hand-made and custom designed specifically for the product being packaged; search for companies that are responsive and quick to communicate. 

Rigid boxes provide excellent protection because of the design. In addition to the box’s strength, the way they are custom designed specifically for the item they contain prevents it from being jostled during transport. 


Packaging is more than choosing a box and some plastic wrap to cover display or ship products.
The products packaged and where they will ship should have an impact on the material you choose. Some forms of packaging are designed for specific items.
Other items may have more flexibility when selecting a packaging method. If so, you may have a preference based on price, the protection offered by the packaging, and the environmentally friendly aspects of your choice.
You may also be limited by what is available at the time. When you need to ship something, working with a company that understands different types of packaging is important. They can recommend the best choice for your product in terms of value and protection. Call 1-800-441-5090 with questions for your next packaging project.

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