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Wrap it Up

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Okay, I’ll admit, most packaging should be seen and not heard, but who can resist? Not me. I love to pop bubble wrap!

The last Monday of January is National Bubble Wrap Day, and guess what this coming Monday is? Oh yeah, Capt’n Clean and I are celebrating by popping not the cork, but rather, the plastic.

So, of course, my inquiring mind wanted to know where on earth bubble wrap originated, who was the genius that came up with the idea, and why are people so obsessed with popping it. Aren’t you curious too?

History of Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is over 50 years old. Hard to believe, huh? It was in 1956, in Hawthorne, New Jersey, that two engineers, Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding, sealed two shower curtains together, which caused air bubbles. They thought that the finished product would make a great wallpaper. The idea of using it as packaging material didn’t immediately “pop” into their minds.

Unfortunately, the sales of their new idea as wallpaper never really took off. So they thought it would make great greenhouse insulation.
So the two inventors named their “big idea” Air Cap and in 1960 the production company, Sealed Air Corporation was formed. Eventually, in 1961, the product evolved into Bubble Wrap, when IBM started shipping their 1401 computers padded with it.

Currently, Sealed Air Corporation is a Fortune 500 company that produces tons of biodegradable, earth-friendly bubble wrap every year. Its annual revenue approaches $500 million. In fact, if you were to take all the bubble wrap that Sealed Air produces each year and stretch it out, it would reach approximately 384,400 kilometers, which is the distance from Earth to the Moon! Are your eyes glazing over yet? Mine are. So many pops, so little time!

Why We Love To Pop So Much

Do you become restless when a piece of bubble wrap arrives with a delivered package? I get all antsy because I can’t wait to have at it. It’s okay if you do, too. We are not alone.

But, why is popping bubble wrap so profoundly satisfying and addictive? According to scientists, there are three main reasons:

  • It’s a hand thing. Human behavior studies suggest that any time we keep something small in our hands, we innately want to fidget with it. Think about keys, pens, rings, or even parts of clothing. Keeping our hands busy with small objects is relaxing and relieves tension for those who are stressed, and who isn’t?

  • It’s an ear thing. The popping sound that bubble wrap makes distracts your mind from extra thoughts and helps you focus on what you are doing. In other words, if you are reading and popping bubble wrap at the same time, you are probably going to be more deeply engrossed in what you are reading.

  • It’s a brain thing. Whenever you pop bubble wrap, your brain is satisfied, just like when you have sex. Okay, maybe not quite the same type of satisfaction, but close. People who research this kind of thing have found that there is a pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, and peripheral regions of the body when we pop bubble wrap. The popping also gives us gratification by releasing happy hormones in the brain. Wow!

My Favorite Toy

In 2016, bubble wrap almost made it into the National Toy Hall of Fame, but it was beat out by the swing (good grief! ), Dungeons & Dragons, and Fisher-Price Little People. I’m not sure what criteria the judges used, but I’m pretty sure that the swing doesn’t have its own phone app. Coloring books, Nerf balls, and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots also didn’t make the cut, so bubble wrap groupies everywhere should appreciate the nomination.

Regardless of its toy notoriety, I’m a super fan of bubble wrap. Actually, I’m a bubble wrap addict, and I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s a good thing, I guess, unless I’m applying for a job at the Sealed Air Corporation. I don’t see how those folks get anything done!

Hey, bubble wrap is a lot cheaper than therapy, so, Monday, join me in proudly celebrating one of the greatest inventions of all time, bubble wrap!

p.s. Did you notice how focused this blog post was? I was popping away at bubble wrap while writing it. Amazing!


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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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