As e-commerce continues to grow, it's becoming increasingly important to rethink wasteful shipping practices and come up with alternatives to bulky boxes and filler materials. Minnesota-based materials company 3M has just debuted a new type of packaging that claims to cut the time, materials, and space required to ship products by 50%.
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The Flex & Seal Shipping Roll is made up of three plastics developed by 3M: a tear- and water-proof outer layer, a bubble-wrap cushioning middle layer, and an adhesive inner layer. The packaging option can be used on a variety of objects under three pounds, a category that, according to 3M, accounts for 60% of the items that are bought online. Users can simply cut what they need from the roll, fold the material over the object, and press down to seal—no need for tape. The adhesive only sticks to itself so there's no worry that it will stick to whatever you're packing.
The process is a lot easier than the multi-step process of making a cardboard box and the resulting packages save a lot of space in delivery trucks. According to Fast Company, 3M is looking into large-scale retail partnerships with companies like Walmart and Target who are competing with Amazon's Prime delivery speeds. "Some of their business is automated [with robot-powered fulfillment centers], but some is done by hand," said business director Remi Kent. "We think we're a better solution for those items done by hand."
The material can be recycled with other plastics, though 3M said it's looking into alternative materials that would make recycling even easier.