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The Next Generation of Bubble Wrap Won’t Pop, Life Just Got Less Fun

4 JULY 2015

Slowly popping the air pockets in a roll of bubble wrap is one of life's simplest pleasures, but Sealed Air Corp - the company that produces the packaging material - is making the bubbles unpoppable in the next generation of the product. It's getting a rather strange new name at the same time: iBubble Wrap.

 

While seasoned bubble wrap poppers will see the move as madness, Sealed Air Corp has taken the decision to make the material easier to transport, as Popular Mechanics reports.

The company wants to be able to transport its wrap in flat sheets that are then inflated on site, making it much cheaper to ship bubble wrap to the four corners of the earth, and the new material will take up just one-50th of the space that the current rolls do.

It's all about competition: bubble wrap is starting to lose out to different types of packaging padding due to the high costs involved in transporting it. Although the arrival of iBubble Wrap is going to be less fun to play with, it might just guarantee the material's future. Worldwide sales of protective packaging hit $20 billion in 2013, helped by the large-scale operations run by the likes of Amazon and Target.

When you apply pressure to the new iBubble Wrap, the air shifts into the adjacent pockets rather than causing them to burst, but there is some hope for popping fans: Sealed Air Corp says it will continue to offer both varieties. Inflating the new kind of wrap requires a customised pump costing US$5,500, though the company says it hopes to lower this price to around $1,000 in the next couple of years.

"There's an initial... era for a lot of these things where they enjoy fairly significant margins," Freedonia Group analyst Mike Richardson told the Wall Street Journal. Those margins tend to drop "once competition enters the market" and so the lower-cost wrap "may put larger customer bases within [Sealed Air's] reach" he said. 3.6 percent of the company's sales were from bubble wrap in 2012, down from 5.7 percent in 2010.

So even if you find the newly non-poppable packaging material in your next delivery, take comfort in the fact that it's probably helped to keep the price of the shipping down - and you can still get hold of the old stuff if you just can't resist some bubble bursting. You could also console yourself with this video of an industrial-strength hydraulic press taking on seven metres of bubble wrap.