If you’ve ever had to move, you know that the biggest stressor may not be the move itself, but the packing that you have to do beforehand. How do you most efficiently get items into packaging? And how do you make sure that nothing breaks or chips during transit?

These are the same questions your business faces when preparing items for shipping. The array of packaging products and shipping supplies can often be overwhelming to choose from. Whether you’re looking for protective packaging for fragile products or eco-friendly recycled paper, there’s a lot that goes into choosing the right packing materials.

So what are the best packaging materials for shipping? Let’s look at some of your options and go over their advantages and disadvantages. This way, you’ll know exactly what you need to make sure your shipment is packed optimally and will arrive at its destination safely.

How to Choose Packaging Materials for Shipping

Choosing the right packaging materials can be tricky. Unlike when you move as an individual, your business can’t protect items in transit by using old sweaters as protection. That means you need to be intentional about your choice of packaging materials. This is also a great solution when it comes to figuring out what to do if a package is stolen or damaged. Eliminating the problem from the start saves you a great deal of time, work, and money. 

A few of the factors you should keep in mind while deciding on the best options:

  • Protection – This is your first and most important consideration. Choosing materials that will effectively prevent damage during shipping ensures that you won’t have to eat the costs of broken shipments. If the material you choose isn’t sufficiently protective, you need to find something that is.
    Cost – The most effective materials for protection are often also the most expensive materials. That means you need to successfully assess the level of protection you need to make sure you aren’t wasting money on unnecessary protection.
    Aesthetics – While not as important as the first two factors, aesthetics still matter. Something that looks well cared for has an effect when it is opened. That level of care will reflect well on your business as a whole.
    Environmental Impact – Not all packaging materials rate well when it comes to their environmental impact. While there are times you may need to use less environmentally-friendly materials to ensure the best protection, you don’t want your shipping to make it look like you’re unconcerned with the impact your business has on the world around it.

Packing Paper

Now that we know the factors we should be judging things on, it’s time to look at the materials themselves. First up is packing paper. There are numerous advantages to using packing paper for shipments. For one thing, it’s likely to be some of the least expensive materials. It’s also versatile and can be used to protect against scratches or to fill up excess space in a box.

Some things to keep in mind about packing paper:1

  • Paper isn’t always that protective. While it can be used to protect against scratches in ceramic items, it’s not protective enough for truly fragile shipments.
  • It’s lightweight and won’t add much to shipping costs.
  • While it can be used to fill space, paper doesn’t offer much resistance against heavier items unless you use an excessive amount.
  • Most paper is biodegradable or recyclable, so it has a minimal negative environmental impact.

Bubble Cushioning

If you want to stick with lightweight material to keep your costs down but need more protection than paper offers, bubble cushioning may be your answer. It also comes in different sizes to help you optimize its protectiveness.

Things to remember about bubble cushioning:1

  • Bubble cushioning can protect even fragile items, but unless you use a lot of cushioning to fill the box, items will still move around and could break.
  • However, this material can become expensive if used to fill space in a box.
  • Plastic bubble cushioning is not good for the environment. There are alternatives, but they are likely to cost more.2

Packing Peanuts

Styrofoam can sometimes feel like a no-go word among environmentalists. And it’s true that overusing styrofoam should be avoided, but packing peanuts do have their uses. They are perfect for filling in small crevices to keep items from shifting, making sure that they are optimally protected.

Things to know about packing peanuts:>3

  • They’re lightweight so they can be cost-effective for shipping costs.
  • Overuse of peanuts isn’t just a negative for the environment, it’s also an aesthetic negative. No one likes having to fish through a box of packing peanuts to find their item.
  • This packing material can also absorb some humidity, offering added protection to items such as electronics.
  • Biodegradable forms of packing peanuts do exist to minimize environmental impact.

Packing Foam

For the best level of protection, packing foam may be the hero of packing materials. Since it comes in many different sizes and can be quite dense, it serves as immediate protection and can fill boxes to protect against unwanted movement in transit. 

Other considerations with packing foam include:3

  • When used correctly, foam can be very aesthetically pleasing and appear as if it is cradling your shipment.
  • Packing foam can make your package a bit denser. This added weight may add to shipping costs.
  • Many types of foam are environmentally friendly (some even dissolve when emerged in water).
  • This is likely to be the most expensive packaging material on this list.

In addition to choosing the best packaging supplies and shipping materials, shipping and freight insurance offered by many carriers can also help. UPS and USPS shipping insurance can provide an extra step of protection for your packages. 

Optimize Your Shipping with Smart Packaging Materials

Packaging material affects the safety, presentation, and cost-effectiveness of your item. And if you think of it that way, it’s almost as important as the item itself! Before signing, sealing, and delivering an item, make sure you’ve chosen a strategic material to ensure smooth sailing. 

Packaging and shipping materials are just a part of a business’s shipping solutions. At Shipware, we provide distribution solutions and strategies with contract negotiation and invoice audits to help you save on parcel shipping costs and improve customer satisfaction. You can use your savings to increase the protection of your packaging supplies. 

Contact us to learn more!



  1. Move. The Best Packing Materials and How to Use Them. https://www.move.org/styrofoam-packing-peanuts-newspaper-or-bubble-wrap/
  2. Small Business Trends. Best Eco-Friendly Bubble Wrap Alternatives. https://smallbiztrends.com/2021/01/eco-friendly-bubble-wrap.html
  3. Real Simple. The Best Packing Materials for Your Next Move (and How to Use Them). https://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/organizing/moving/packing-materials-tips-for-moving