Protective Packaging

Protecting your packages

6 mins

Protective Packaging materials are essential to keeping products from getting damaged while in transit or being stored. With the vast variety of products being packed, there is naturally a large amount of different protective materials available to choose from. How do you know if you are you using the most effective and efficient protective packaging for your product?

Protective Packaging materials are essential to keeping products from getting damaged while in transit or being stored. With the vast variety of products being packed, there is naturally a large amount of different protective materials available to choose from. How do you know if you are you using the most effective and efficient protective packaging for your product?

We've pulled together this little guide on the main types of protective packaging on the market today to introduce the range of options available and help you identify the right solution for your packaged product.

Loose fill

Loose void fill products are primarily for using as the name implies - for filling larger voids in cardboard boxes or packages where the product is significantly smaller than the box, or there are multiple products to be packaged together in one box. While it holds some protective properties, it is not designed ultimately for product protection and still allows for a degree of movement and migration within the box. This means it is best used with products that are not very fragile or easily broken or damaged.

The main types of void fill are;

Pros of these products are they are relatively cheap, extremely lightweight and can work well for irregularly shaped products.

Cons are they can be very messy and are bulky to store, the polystyrene Loosefill is also not a very environmentally friendly option. However, the starch versions do melt and can be washed away. It's important to note though that this can make them susceptible to water damage.


Crumpled Kraft paper can be used as both a void fill and as protective packaging for light to medium weight non fragile items. The level of protection varies with the weight of paper used and how it is crumpled.

The pros of this as protective packaging is it is viewed as a more environmentally friendly option than its plastic alternatives, it is versatile and uses less space than the Loosefill mentioned before.

The cons are it can be labour intensive, although there are a number of automated packaging machines that can crumple and feed the paper through very quickly and to the desired density.


Shredded corrugated card is another product like paper that can be used as both void fill and for its shock absorbent protective qualities on light to medium weighted products that are not too fragile. The added benefit of this though is that it can be made out of your own cardboard waste packaging! Making it a super environmentally friendly option. There are a variety of cardboard shredders on the market that vary based on the type of void fill properties you want, and the amount of cardboard you want to process. While they will make up their cost in not having to purchase materials, it would be wise to choose an energy efficient one to maximise on its environmental benefits.

Bubble wrap

Bubble Wrap is probably one of the best known protective packaging materials and is much loved for its therapeutic benefits of bubble popping. It is still widely used as it provides a versatile cushioning with high shock absorbing qualities. Smaller 10mm bubble wrap is good for smaller product wrapping while 20/25mm bubble wrap is more suitable to larger products.

The pros of bubble wrap are its versatility. This is because it can be used to wrap a variety of different sized and shaped products whilst also being clean and lightweight. The cons are it takes up a lot of storage space, its protective qualities are labour dependant, and the wrapping process is labour intensive. Plastic packaging is not biodegradable and hence not a very environmentally friendly packaging option.

Air Bag cushioning

Inflatable airbags use air pressure to secure and 'brace' the products inside their containers. They are extremely shock resistant and usually puncture resistant. There are many different types of inflatable airbags on the market making them equally versatile, however, as they are usually inflated at the site of packaging they use less space in storage than their bubbly brothers. It is also a relatively cost effective solution and generally uses less material than bubble wrap. The cons are that extreme climate conditions can affect the pressure inside of the bags, therefore affecting their effectiveness in protecting the product.

Polyethylene Foam sheeting

Polyethylene Foam Sheeting is a very versatile wrapping solution and is also very soft providing excellent surface protection. It is very suitable for wrapping very lightweight products. However, due to the sheet like property and the need for proper wrapping, polyethylene foam sheeting is quite a labour intensive option, meaning it is less cost effective. 

Block and brace packaging

Block and brace packaging works by preventing an item from moving from the centre of the box. Therefore, protecting the package on all sides from any direct impact. This is the preferred packaging solution for high tech, valuable or heavyweight products. The material used for block and brace vary immensely and will differ for different products and affect the protective capabilities of the packaging.

Types of Block and brace packaging include;

  • EPS (polystyrene) inserts, mouldable, lightweight, low cost but can crack and not as resilient as some others, disposal issues, design cost for each product.
  • Polyethylene foam inserts, low density Cell foam, is a more expensive option, but provides superior shock absorbing and vibration protection good for high value and fragile items.
  • Moulded pulp, made from 100% recycled paper it is durable, flexible and environmentally friendly.

Impact Indicators

Impact labels are used throughout the supply chain to deter and detect damage through impact, tilt and temperature. Our new product range has the monitor you need to detect, or even prevent, costly damage to shipments and equipment. The Impact Indicators we have available to protect your products during transit include:

  • ShockWatch 2: The ShockWatch 2 can be used to indicate whether fragile products have been dropped during transit or in storage. If the product has been mishandled, the ShockWatch will turn red in the middle section, which will mean further inspection is needed.
  • ShockWatch RFID: Deters, detects, and diagnoses damage throughout the supply chain through a UHF RFID tag that can communicate an impact to an RFID reader without the need for visual inspection.
  • TiltWatch XTRA single use tip indicator used to monitor goods that must remain upright. It can be used to provide evidence of mishandling if tipping occurs during shipment. The TiltWatch has a greater than 80° tilt detection, is tamper proof, and will not activate under normal handling.
  • TiltWatch Plus: Indicates whether there has been a tilt to the left or to the right, the degree of the tilt, or if a complete overturn has occurred. 

Protective Packaging from Swiftpak

Swiftpak is a packaging supply company with over 30 years experience in choosing the right packaging supplies. If you are looking to improve your packaging operation or need advice on the right packaging supplies for your products, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise.