Bubble wrap: It’s fun to pop. It’s helpful with packages. And it makes a very comfortable…mattress?
Monday, Jan. 30, is Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. The air-filled plastic packing material has been around since 1957 and is used in virtually every packing and shipping store in the country.
One such store is the in South Orange. The store’s owner, George Berkeley, estimates they go through approximately thirty 250 foot rolls a year. That’s enough to cover 25 football fields in the popping material.
There are many different types of bubble wrap. The small bubble wrap is used for smaller objects, giving it a cushion as its put in boxes. As the weight of an object goes up, so does the grade of bubble wrap used. The bigger bubbles are used for heavier objects and then for those customers with the really expensive objects to ship, there is “pillow” bubble wrap which is the biggest bubbles and hardest to pop.
Bubble wrap is not just used for packing. In the three years he has owned the UPS Store, Berkeley has seen customers use the material for various reasons, including ‘pop parties’ and camping mattresses.
Pop parties are a semi-common use for the wrap. Parents will come in and buy a roll of bubble wrap for their young child’s birthday party and let the kids pop it for entertainment. Berkeley estimates that this happens several times a year.
He’s also had people come in and use it as a mattress while a customer was camping. Afraid of moisture ruining his sleeping bag (and his slumber), a customer used bubble wrap to set up a pseudo air-mattress to use between the ground and his body, a comfortable way to stay dry.
Other uses that Berkeley has seen have been its use for artwork. Artists will use the bubble wrap and packing peanuts to add texture to their artwork.
Customers have used it to stuff chairs, an easy way to “add more bounce to their chair,” said Berkeley. Also some customers have even used it to spread across the ground when they have model trains, serving as a soft landing if the train derails.
Bubble wrap is not a cheap product for customers. Usually the price of it depends on oil prices worldwide as oil is used to make the plastic that is filled with air bubbles. At the UPS Store, a 250 foot roll will cost a customer $59.99. A seven foot roll is $3.99, a twenty foot roll is $5.60.
Berkeley says that the wrap is vital to his business. He told a story from the holiday season of Eden Gourmet shipping almost 80 gift baskets a day. One Sunday, the store ran out of bubble wrap while packing the gift baskets, essentially shutting them down for a day. Thankfully they were able to get some in time so as not to interrupt their shipping.
“We were in trouble,” said Berkeley. “It’s very important. Without (bubble wrap), it just about shuts us down.”