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How Inflatable Air Cushions Can Help Reach Sustainability Goals

Not all plastic packaging is unsustainable. Here’s how distributors can use inflatable air cushions to lower their environmental impact.

Plastic waste is a top concern for European consumers, according to research by GFK. In fact, 53 percent of people surveyed by the organization ranked single-use plastic consumption as a bigger problem than climate change. 

It’s no surprise that the concern has prompted substantial behavior adjustments. About 88 percent of those surveyed bring reusable bags to stores, while 81 percent carry reusable water bottles instead of single-use plastic containers. The group also expects manufacturers and governments to play a larger role in reducing plastic waste. Currently, there are a number of proposals for taxes on plastic throughout the EU. The European Green Deal also aims to make the EU climate neutral by the year 2050, which would require that plastic be manufactured from mostly recycled or plant-based content instead of new petroleum. 

As online shopping and home delivery become increasingly common, this anti-plastic bias has impacted product and packaging perception. However, eliminating plastic solutions like inflatable air cushions might actually lead to negative outcomes for e-commerce companies and online retailers, not to mention the planet. Here’s what you need to know: 


The Benefits of Inflatable Air Cushions

Pregis’ versatile air cushions serve as void fill and wrapping and as a blocking and bracing solution for a wide array of products. Because they’re produced on demand, packers can optimize cushioning for each parcel. About 99 percent of the volume of an air cushion is air. That is why they require less material than paper or loose fill. 

According to market research from Pregis, damaged packages exponentially increase greenhouse gas emissions from reshipping replacement products. This increases the amount of waste that must be incinerated, too. (The Pregis EcoGauge helps brands assess the true environmental impact of their damaged parcels.) 

That’s why inflatable air cushions’ superior protection can do more good for the environment than harm, even though plastic is not viewed as sustainable. 


Plastic That’s Sustainable

Incorporating air cushions into packaging can help online retailers and fulfillment companies reach larger sustainability goals. The most eco-friendly features of inflatable air cushions are:


Less Material Usage

Pregis air cushions are available in several plastic grades, so customers never use more material than necessary. Plus, all films are engineered to offer maximum protection while using the minimum amount of plastic. 


Reduced Carbon Emissions

When air cushions are shipped to manufacturers and distributors, they’re flat and compact, so more can be transported in less space with lower weight. Even when inflated and en-route to consumers, the lower cargo weight reduces the amount of CO2 consumed in transit.

Bio-based materials, such as those made from plants, are increasingly used to manufacture plastic without the use of petroleum and other fossil-fuel derived ingredients. Pregis’ Renew S, manufactured from plant-based waste, is the first CO2 neutral, cradle-to-gate air pillow.


Recycled Content

Products made from recycled content use less raw material and virgin resins. This principle is embodied in the AirSpeed Renew, made of post-consumer, mechanically recycled content that would otherwise have gone to the landfill. Mechanical recycling is an innovative process that produces less CO2, lowering the carbon footprint as well.  Renew air cushions are easy to recycle, closing the loop for a completely circular product


Certifiable Impact

Pregis has achieved a number of sustainability accreditations in the mission to create an eco-friendly supply chain. The Renew S cushion, made with the MINI PAK’R® Industrial and PRO PAK'R® machines, has received International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC PLUS). This “circular economy” certification recognizes the raw materials used to make the inflatable air pillows are traceable and come from ISCC chain of custody members. 


Leading-Edge Product Development

Pregis isn’t only driving sustainability in the protective packaging industry — it’s working with other leaders in the value chain to meet the sustainability demands of consumers, as well as EU legislation. In February, Pregis joined the Circular Economy Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX), a European business consortium leading the way to a circular, flexible packaging economy through 2025. Also, in 2019, Pregis joined the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and their $1.5 billion investment goal to help reduce the toll of plastic on the environment. 

Though plastic is thought to be negative, Pregis’ inflatable air cushions are fully recyclable and use less material than many other protective packaging solutions. Their superior performance makes them instrumental to the company’s 2K30 goals, which will prevent over one million unnecessary reships by 2030. As technology and manufacturing progress, sustainable air cushions will become the standard. 

For more information on how to make your fulfilment operation more sustainable,

contact Pregis today