Paper Fill vs Air Pouches: Which Is Best?

Paper Fill vs Air Pouches: Which Is Best?


Like many things in the warehouse, packaging needs are constantly under review. They’re often identified as an area where customers can, not only reduce costs, but refine their processes too. Effective packaging isn’t just about getting products from point A to point B – it’s about protecting your products, your brand and maximising cost/workload efficiencies too.

In this article, we’re comparing two popular void fill alternatives, paper fill and air pouches – and more importantly, how you can identify which is best for you…

Understanding Paper Fill and Air Pouches


Paper Fill: Introduction


Let’s start with paper fill, the old faithful of the packaging world. Paper fill is essentially shredded or crumpled paper used to fill voids in boxes and keep items from shifting during transit. There are several types of paper fill, including Hexcel, which is a unique and revolutionary paper, that offers a range of benefits when compared to more traditional forms.

Manufactured by our friends at Protega, Hexcel is a honeycomb paper that has been specifically designed to introduce a natural bulk to your products, meaning you use less paper in your packaging ops. What’s more, the unique texture is also designed to interlock, which means less need for tape too – and a greater reduction of materials and time to assemble your goods for shipping as a result.

If you’d like to learn more about the Hexcel, or it’s lighter sister product Hexafil, you can speak to one of our packaging specialists by using the contact form here.

Air Pouches: Introduction


On the other hand, we have air pouches, also known as air pillows, air cushions or air packaging. These are plastic pouches filled with, you guessed it, air, and used to cushion items in a package. They come in various shapes and sizes, but their main selling points are how lightweight and easy to store they are.

Air pouches come in a myriad of forms and shapes, but have become staples in industries like electronics, where protecting delicate components is paramount.

Ripac Air Pouch Machine

Cost Considerations


Initial Cost: The Price Tag Reality


Let’s talk money—initial costs are often the first stop when comparing and contrasting new ideas. Generally speaking, air pouches tend to be cheaper upfront when compared to paper alternatives. But it’s also important to consider the machinery involved too as there are many options that could affect how much you pay overall.

On the machinery front, it’s time to get to our next point – storage space.

Storage and Handling: Space Matters


Over the years, we’ve seen all kinds of warehouses in action. From super-efficient, perfectly organised spaces to those that, well, let’s just say are limited and haven’t refined their process to the same scale. In those extremes, it’s clear to see the benefits that a clean and fully optimised space can have on output potential.

With this in mind and bringing it back to the subject of void fill, though there are numerous options for organising stock of either efficiently, air pouches are much more compact, as they come deflated, and are therefore much easier to store.

In regards to machinery, pouch filling machines are perhaps slightly smaller in size (though these can scale) and therefore, if you’re operating at capacity, or close to outgrowing your current space, then air pouches may be the best choice for you.

Long-term Cost Implications: Think Ahead


It’s also wise to think about long-term costs. Paper fill can often be reused, but it’s prone to wear and tear. Air pouches, especially those made from durable materials, can often be reused multiple times.

There’s also the matter of waste disposal. Paper fill is biodegradable and easy to recycle, whereas disposing of plastic air pouches might incur additional costs and require specific waste management protocols.

Performance and Product Protection


Protection Levels: The Safety Net


When it comes to protecting your goods, both paper fill and air pouches have their strengths. Paper fill is excellent for bracing items and filling large voids. It’s especially useful for heavy, non-fragile items that just need to be kept in place.

Air pouches, however are less effective when it comes to shock absorption. Shockwaves can transition through the air pouch and into the product and have even been known to pop on occasion! Paper is the clear choice when it comes to protection because products like the Hexcel wrap, take the impact and give minimal damage to the product enclosed.

Environmental Factors: Handle with Care


Environmental conditions in your warehouse might also play a role in determining which material to use. Paper fill can absorb moisture, which might be an issue in humid environments. Air pouches are generally more resistant to moisture, however under extreme temperatures, they have been known to expand or contract.

Therefore, it’s entirely based on your specific environment and processes to judge this factor most effectively.

Protega Protect machine in action.

Environmental Impact


Sustainability: The Green Debate


In today’s world, sustainability is more than just a buzzword—it’s a crucial factor in business decisions. Paper fill, especially when made from recycled materials, is highly sustainable. It’s biodegradable, recyclable, and has a lower environmental footprint in production. What’s more, our Hexcel paper is manufactured in the UK and is FSC certified too.

Air pouches, typically made from plastic, have a more significant environmental impact. However, there are biodegradable and recyclable options available now, which can mitigate some of these concerns.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Brand Image


Your packaging choices can also affect your company’s image. Customers increasingly prefer companies that prioritise sustainability. Using eco-friendly materials like paper fill can enhance your brand’s reputation. However, if you opt for eco-friendly air pouches, you can still maintain a green image while benefiting from their protective qualities.

Operational Efficiency


Speed and Efficiency: Time is Money


Efficiency is crucial, and for many managing the workforce of a packaging unit/team, will find themselves targeted on it as well. Naturally, you’d assume paper fill is quicker to use, especially with the convenience of machines like the Protega Protect, where you can set the output to a specific length and simply press a button to get started.

Air pouches on the other hand, especially when used with an automated inflator, can streamline the packing process too. They provide a consistent level of cushioning and can speed up operations, which is particularly beneficial in high-volume settings.

Cost usually plays a deciding factor; paper may initially seem more expensive but if applied in an efficient manner will likely be comparable to air fill products. Paper is often seen as the most eco-friendly solution but the process to recycle paper is often more expensive than plastic. At the end of the day its what works best for you and we can help you to discover this.

Paper fill or Air Pouches: Conclusion


Summary of Key Points


So, paper fill or air pouches? The answer isn’t straightforward and depends on your specific needs and priorities. We encourage you to carry out your own tests and try to understand the factors that will determine the best fit.

Once you have this information, or if you’re struggling to put it together, feel free to get in touch with one of our packaging specialists. They’ll have all the answers you need to make the best choice and to offer advice that could significantly improve your operations.