Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, also known as BWAD, is celebrated on the last Monday in January. It was created in 2001 by Jim Webster of Spirit 95.1 FM in Bloomington, IN. In the past, the radio station has sponsored sports, sculpture and fashion design contests.
Sealed Air Corporation’s Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors awarded top honors in 2010 to 13-year-old. Matthew Huber for his invention of Petri bubbles, a cheap and easy alternative to Petri dishes for use after earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks, and any disaster where access to medical services is desperately needed.
In 2014, Harvard University chemists published a paper stating that “the gas-filled compartments in the packing material commonly called ‘bubble wrap’ can be repurposed in resource-limited regions as containers to store liquid samples, and to perform bioanalyses.” Huber is probably looking at grad schools by now. Give him a call.
The invention of Bubble Wrap began as a failed experiment and became a triumph of the imagination. In 1957, engineers Marc Chavannes and Al Fielding created three-dimensional wallpaper by trapping air between two shower curtains. (Imagine how our interiors might look had their plan succeeded.)
After an unsuccessful effort to repurpose it as greenhouse insulation, Chavannes and Fielding realized that their terrible wallpaper would make excellent packaging material. At that time, the paper products used for packaging didn’t cushion heavy or delicate objects.
They raised $9,000 to fund a developmental production line and incorporated Sealed Air Corporation in 1960. IBM was their first customer, using Bubble Wrap to protect its 1401 business computer’s fragile vacuum tubes during shipping. Customers all over the world have entrusted it with their valuables ever since.
The company continues to innovate, improving its products and creating new ones. In 2015, Sealed
Air announced the creation of NewAir I.B. Extreme (cue air guitar), designed to ship flat, reducing bulk and lowering transportation costs. One truckload is equivalent to 40 truckloads of traditional Bubble Wrap. Customers will then inflate sheets as needed with a custom air pump.
The stuff looks like traditional Bubble Wrap but don’t be fooled: it will not pop, no matter how hard you press, poke, punch, squeeze, sit or stomp on it. Believe me, we’ve tried. We miss that pleasantly startling noise that induces a fight-or-flight response in anyone within earshot. While we can’t replicate the sensation, we can help keep the memory alive with this:
If you no longer use Adobe FlashPlayer, which is going the way of the dodo, don’t worry. Googling “virtual bubble wrap” returns 9,460,000 results sure to keep you amused in perpetuity, or until you get bored, whichever comes first.
Happy Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day!