Scotch's newest product reduces the need for tape and excess protective materials like bubble wrap—and it can hold anything that weighs under three pounds.

By Zee Krstic
Courtesy of 3M / Scotch Brand

Americans have never shopped online more, and the amount of packages that we send and receive has become an issue for our environment—according to the United States Postal Service, more than six billion packages were delivered in the United States in 2018 alone, and UPS recently reported increased sales during the second quarter of 2018. Major retailers have been searching for more efficient, eco-friendly ways to deliver merchandise, which is why researchers at Scotch and its parent company 3M have developed a new type of packaging that eliminates much of the material waste associated with cardboard boxes. 

In a Fast Company report, Scotch officials shared more details about their new Flex & Seal Shipping Roll, which can be customized to securely hold any item weighing less than three pounds in transit. While this packaging couldn't protect bulky items like furniture or kitchenware at the moment, officials at the brand say that smaller items actually account for roughly 60 percent of all items that are bought online and shipped to customers around the country. This new product can drastically reduce the amount of packing materials used, the time spent packing, and the space required to ship packages in a truck or airplane. 

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The material is a combination of three different layers of plastics that 3M professionals have developed, including an internal adhesive that sticks to itself when pressed upon. The item itself is cushioned by an integrated layer of bubble wrap, and users simply press and seal the water-resistant packaging using their fingers. It's already available for consumers under the Scotch brand: You can buy rolls of the packing material online now, with prices ranging between $12 and $49. Fast Company reports that the packaging forms an unbreakable seal in the 30 seconds after you've pushed one layer of the package into the other; you'd have to forcefully tear it open to access your item again. 

According to the report, this cardboard-alternative is recyclable, and is made of the same material that is used in disposable plastic bags found in everyday retailers. Unfortunately, this material can only be processed by retailers who opt in to process shipping materials themselves—shoppers wouldn't be able to place this plastic-based material into curbside collections just yet, unlike traditional cardboard. "We're looking at how we could change the construction of the material choices so it becomes easier to recycle at your home," Remi Kent, a global business manager for 3M's Post-it Notes and Scotch brands, told Fast Company

Kent says that couriers and delivery services would be able to cut down the bulk of cardboard that hogs their delivery vehicles and clogs their operations. Being able to increase the amount of packages placed in a single truck or airplane could help make supply chains more efficient by reducing emissions—but it's unclear how much gas and resources could be saved if retailers made the switch immediately.

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