Bubble Wrap

The final Monday in January is known as Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day.

In 1957, Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes created three-dimensional wallpaper from sealed air pockets between shower curtains. They thought people would love the groovy design, but Bubble Wrap’s destiny was function over form. A great packaging material was born.

Although their invention never caught on as interior decor, the two men discovered their new material’s lightweight and insulating properties were beneficial — first as greenhouse insulation and then as the packing material we now know as BUBBLE WRAP® brand original cushioning.

In 1960, Fielding and Chavannes founded Sealed Air Corporation with the BUBBLE WRAP® brand as the company’s signature brand. It could reduce total packaging costs by using less material, reducing package size and weight, and reducing loss from damage. In other words, the BUBBLE WRAP® brand’s original cushioning promoted sustainability long before it was fashionable.

Sealed Air created special laboratories now known as Packaging Design Application Centers to demonstrate its unique qualities and value. These labs also educated their sales force about shock and vibration protection and worked with their customers to create superior solutions.

The final Monday in January is known as Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day. This began in America after an Indiana radio station, based in Bloomington, had a delivery of microphones. These were all wrapped in bubble wrap and the sound of the bubbles popping was unintentionally broadcast. This sparked a wave of wrap appreciation, which led to a special day being allocated to it each year.

The Bandai toy company created Mugen Puchipuchi (the name translates to “infinite pop pop”), a key chain toy based around popping bubble wrap. The square-shaped toy has eight buttons that make a popping sound when pressed and is designed to mimic the sensation of popping bubble wrap an infinite number of times. It is made of a double-layer silicone rubber structure to create a similar feeling to bubble wrap.

It also plays a sound effect for every 100 pops; these sound effects include a “door chime”, “barking dog”, “fart”, and “sexy voice”. Bandai worked with the company behind Puchipuchi bubble wrap to create a design that is most realistic to real bubble wrap. A version was also created for the Nintendo Wii, Ouchi de Mugen Puchi Puchi Wii is a game based on the premise of “oh, hey, bubble wrap!” You’ll be able to squeeze bubbles with the Wiimote, scoring combos based on popping in time with the game’s music.

Each of around 40 stages will have a different background, music, and bubble-popping sound! The game will also randomly test your stress level, which is almost guaranteed to be chill. We’re calling it right now: this is our most-wanted Wii Ware game. Bandai Namco has to do the right thing here and localize it.

Bubble wrap is most often formed from polyethylene[1] (low-density polyethylene) film[2] with a shaped side bonded to a flat side to form air bubbles. Some types of bubble wrap have a lower permeation barrier film to allow longer useful life and resistance to loss of air in vacuums. The bubbles can be as small as 0.24 inches in diameter, to as large as 1.0 inch or more, to provide added levels of shock absorption during transit.

The most common bubble size is 13/32 inches. In addition to the degree of protection available from the size of the air bubbles in the plastic, the plastic material itself can offer some forms of protection for the object in question.

When shipping sensitive electronic parts and components, a type of bubble wrap is used that employs an antistatic plastic that dissipates static charge, thereby protecting the sensitive electronic chips from static which can damage them.

One of the first widespread uses of bubble wrap came in 1960, with the shipping of the new IBM 1401[3] computers to customers, most of whom had never seen this packing material before.

In 2012, the makers of Bubble Wrap® brand cushioning conducted a survey and respondents said that just over one minute of popping bubbles provides the stress relief equivalent to a 33-minute massage. Anyway, most of us, including my cat Cort, loves popping the bubbles.

Bubble Wrap Facts

Proving that Bubble Wrap has unlimited uses, actress Farrah Fawcett posed wearing only a run of the see-through material for a 1997 Playboy cover and interior photo spread. Because the Wrap left nothing to the imagination, Fawcett’s cover was shipped only to subscribers.

To churn out the miles of Bubble Wrap produced yearly,
Sealed Air’s factory in Elmwood Park, New Jersey can be a bit stifling.
The machines use resin to create the sheets at temperatures of 560 degrees,
making the air around it “sweat-inducing.”

Published in 1998, The Bubble Wrap Book took a novel look at alternative uses for Bubble Wrap. Some were clearly intended for satirical purposes—like stuffing your wallet with the stuff to impress dates—while others may find some practical use. Making a mat out of Bubble Wrap could,
in theory, alert you to a burglar.

Bored with marking off days with a big red X? Sealed Air licenses day calendars that allow consumers to punctuate dates by popping a giant bubble instead.

The most common use after packaging is sitting around and popping the bubbles with your fingers. People claim popping Bubble Wrap is therapeutic. People often sit around pinching the bubbles in a sheet of bubble wrap, breaking them with a satisfying pop. The maker of Bubble Wrap sponsors an annual competition for young inventors that challenges them to find other uses for Bubble Wrap.

The Sealed Air Corporation offers scholarships and prizes to winning inventors who develop new uses for the material. Bubble Wrap makes great insulation for dog houses, fun placemats for kids, protecting outdoor plants against freezing, emergency insulation for glass windows and doors, a beverage cozy, lining for a refrigerator crisper drawer, a burglar alarm (lay it on the floors around doors and entrances) and as an emergency sleeping bag, an emergency flotation device or a padded Halloween costume (think giant jellyfish).

You can even use Bubble Wrap as an emergency splint for an injured limb. Uses for the versatile material we know as Bubble Wrap are limited only by your imagination. The most people popping bubble wrap simultaneously is 2,681, achieved by the Denver Area Council, Boy Scouts of America (USA) at the Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch in Elbert, Colorado, USA, on September 19, 2015, and certified by Guinness World Records.

Artist Bradley Hart has a unique approach to modern art. Using a syringe, he injects paint into individual air cylinders of Bubble Wrap, creating pixelated-looking landscapes and portraits. Hart also displays the reverse side of these works, which feature running paint from the injections and serve as a counterpoint to the more disciplined image on the front.

In October 2000, Sealed Air protected one of the most unusual items to date, an 815-pound pumpkin nicknamed “Gourdzilla” at a pumpkin-dropping contest in Iowa. The
pumpkin stayed intact despite being dropped onto Bubble Wrap® from a 35-foot-tall
crane. Each year, Sealed Air makes enough Bubble Wrap® to stretch from the earth to the moon and back.

  1. Polyethylene or polythene is the most commonly produced plastic. It is a polymer, primarily used for packaging (plastic bags, plastic films, geomembranes, and containers including bottles, etc.). As of 2017, over 100 million tonnes of polyethylene resins are being produced annually, accounting for 34% of the total plastics market. Many kinds of polyethylene are known, with most having the chemical formula (C2H4)n. PE is usually a mixture of similar polymers of ethylene, with various values of n. It can be low-density or high-density: low-density polyethylene is extruded using high pressure (1,000–5,000 atm (100–510 MPa)) and high temperature (520 K (247 °C; 476 °F)), while high-density polyethylene is extruded using low pressure (6–7 atm (610–710 kPa)) and low temperature (333–343 K (60–70 °C; 140–158 °F)). Polyethylene is usually thermoplastic, but it can be modified to become thermosetting instead, for example, in cross-linked polyethylene. [Back]
  2. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is a thermoplastic made from the monomer ethylene. It was the first grade of polyethylene, produced in 1933 by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) using a high-pressure process via free radical polymerization. Its manufacturer employs the same method today. The EPA estimates 5.7% of LDPE (resin identification code 4) is recycled in the United States. Despite competition from more modern polymers, LDPE continues to be an important plastic grade. In 2013 the worldwide LDPE market reached a volume of about US$33 billion. Despite its designation with the recycling symbol, it cannot be as commonly recycled as No. 1 (polyethylene terephthalate) or 2 plastics (high-density polyethylene). [Back]
  3. The IBM 1401 is a variable-word length decimal computer that was announced by IBM on October 5, 1959. The first member of the highly successful IBM 1400 series, it was aimed at replacing unit record equipment for processing data stored on punched cards and at providing peripheral services for larger computers. 1401 is considered to be the Ford Model-T of the computer industry because it was mass-produced and because of its sales volume. Over 12,000 units were produced and many were leased or resold after they were replaced with newer technology. 1401 was withdrawn on February 8, 1971. [Back]
  4. Bradley Hart is a New York-based Canadian contemporary artist, best known for the photorealistic portraits that he creates by injecting paint into bubble wrap. Hart works mainly with bubble wrap as his unique canvas and creative material. According to the artist, the idea of turning commonly used packing plastic into art came from his encounter with overly protective museum security guards and a leftover roll of bubble from his first solo show in New York. Since then, Hart has developed “a conceptually complex and elaborate system that includes the perpetual invention of mechanized methods allowing for his art to spawn more art.” Hart’s oeuvre of interrelated series initiates with the Injection paintings. The subjects of Hart’s paintings, ranging from portraiture of celebrities and friends to full-scale scenery and snapshots of life, come from his personal photograph collection. Using software that he developed with a friend, Hart assigns a color code to each bubble which corresponds with a paint-loaded syringe. The artist then injects the acrylic paint into each cell of the bubble wrap, resulting in pixelated hyperrealist recreations of the chosen images. On average, it takes Hart about 150 hours to finish each Injection work. While injecting, Hart intentionally overfills the bubbles with a calculated amount of paint so that the excess paint would drip down the flat side of the bubble wrap. The drips fuse upon drying and are then removed from the plastic. This layer becomes the next series, titled Impression, which is a natural byproduct of the previous Injection work and yet constitutes an independent body of works on its own.

Further Reading


Sealed Air
Mental Floss
The UPS Store
Holmes Mann
Guinness World Records

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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