Updated: May 14, 2020
Minnesota-based materials company 3M is releasing a new type of packaging that requires no tape and no filler, and it can be customized to fit any object under 3 pounds—which 3M says accounts for about 60% of all items that are bought online and shipped. 3M claims that the material, called the Flex & Seal Shipping Roll, can reduce time spent packing, the amount of packaging materials, and the space needed to ship packages.
The roll is made out of three layers of different plastics that 3M developed, including a gray, internal adhesive layer that sticks to itself. There’s also a middle cushioning layer that seems similar to bubble wrap to protect items during shipping, and a tougher outside layer that is torn- and water-resistant. The Flex & Seal is recyclable—it’s made of the same material as disposable plastic bags. But similar to plastic bags, the only way to recycle it is to take it to certain retail stores and recyclers, which might be able to include it in their plastic bag recycling program. That means you can’t toss it in your recycling bin with old milk cartons and empty soda cans. But Flex & Seal does have an environmental benefit, compared with cardboard, 3M says: Shipping companies would be able to fit more of this type of package in a single truck, making the supply chain more efficient and potentially reducing emissions.
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