Shoestring Theory

Currently documenting the house that is eating our lives, we will return to regularly scheduled programming in a couple of more months

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TotD: Which is the cheapest void fill for packages: Peanuts, Paper or Bubble Wrap?

June 21, 2008 at 1:36 pm by thetheorist

Paper Roll
Kraft Brown Paper from Uline (photo from

Hi folks, been awhile since I posted (how much of a blogger cliché is that?). For one, the business this summer has been going really well and I haven’t had the time during the day to write anything. For two, I came to the realization that I spend all day thinking about eBay and e-biz and didn’t necessarily want to be thinking about it more in the evenings once I’m done working. I’m still going to write about eBay, but I think this blog will begin mixing things up a bit also.

Anyway, we were looking at some more shipping options this week and I ran some basic calculations on packing materials to see what our best solutions were. I couldn’t find a good guide on cost per volume, so I figured it up myself. We typically use peanuts and bubble wrap. As of this week, we added newsprint. We have a wide range of products, ranging from very fragile to almost indestructible. We started using newsprint for those items which we know won’t be hurt during shipping. We buy peanuts and bubble wrap from our local UPS Store. I have found that most UPS Stores that they will sell you the industrial size packing supplies they order for themselves if you ask. The managers get to set the prices on large packing supplies, so you may find some variance on how much they charge you. There are cheaper options, but not if you have to have them shipped to a residential address. We buy rolls of newsprint from Uline. The breakdown in cost is as follows:

Bubble Wrap – ½” bubble, 24” wide x 250’ long
$60 for approx 14 cubic feet
Cost per cubic foot: $4.92

Packing Peanuts – white Styrofoam
$30 for approx 11 cubic feet
Cost per cubic foot: $2.70

Newsprint – 24”x1695’ roll at 30 lb weight paper
$45.89 for approx 41.5 cubic feet if packing things very well.
Cost per cubic foot: $1.08

Kraft Brown Paper – 24”x1200’ roll at 30 lb weight paper
$36.30 for approx 29.4 cubic feet if packing things very well
Cost per cubic foot: $1.23

Clearly, newsprint is the cheapest void fill option, but also the least secure. We’re going to stick with this combination for now, using the packing material that is best suited to the object being shipped. If you can buy in larger quantities or at cheaper prices, the cost per cubic foot will obviously drop. Still, this guide should give you a good idea of the ratio in price to volume for these common packing supplies.

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  • 1 Kate Jun 23, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    45 bucks for newsprint!?!?!?!?!?! Go rob a Pitch stand!!!