Advancements in packaging technology usually don’t attract much notice outside the packaging trade media, but we are talking about Bubble Wrap® here.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sealed Air Corp. will introduce a new version of the plastic barrier material it first produced in 1960. Called iBubble Wrap, the update will be easier and more economical for packers and shippers to use because it is so much less bulky than the original.
What’s ingenious about iBubble Wrap is that unlike classic Bubble Wrap, it isn’t pre-inflated. Air goes into the cells only when the material is ready to be stuffed into or wrapped around packages being prepared for shipping. (Sealed Air Corp. will provide the inflating pump.)
“One roll of the new iBubble Wrap uses roughly one-fiftieth as much space before it’s inflated,” says WSJ. This could mean huge savings in costly storage space for warehouses and a shot in the arm for the Bubble Wrap brand, a weak performer for Sealed Air Corp. in recent years.
It’s all good except for one small detail: the bubbles in iBubble Wrap don’t pop. If you squeeze an air sac between your fingers, the air just moves to an adjacent cell.
Hence the attention from popular media bewailing the loss of what they would have us see as America’s premier source of tactile gratification. Some headlines and pull quotes:
“Bubble Wrap Rebrands Itself as ‘iBubble Wrap,’ Launches Product that Won’t Pop: They want to be the Apple of packaging goods, but also destroy childhood at the same time.” (Vanity Fair)
“Hate to burst your bubble, but there's a new form of Bubble Wrap coming out—and this one won’t pop...there’s no cathartic "POP!" as in traditional Bubble Wrap.” (The Huffington Post)
“Welcome to the Dystopian Future: Bubble Wrap No Longer Pops: Aldous Huxley wrote that ‘happiness is never grand,’ and certainly a world without the simple pleasure of poppable bubble wrap is a brave new world.” (Slate)
“Somebody Invented Bubble Wrap That Doesn’t Pop Because They Hate Fun: The lifeless plastic sheets are apparently the answer to many of the wants and needs of online shipping companies—but what about our needs, Sealed Air?” (Vice).
Who knew the urge to pop was so compulsive for so many? If you have worry beads, now might be a good time to start fingering them. Just one question: what’s going to happen to Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day?