We had a new roll of Bubble Wrap delivered yesterday. The boss said “pop it in the corner”. Took me five hours!
Alas, that joke could be a thing of the past. Why? Because there is a new Bubble Wrap in town. Called iBubble Wrap, the new version consists of columns of interconnected air pockets that when pushed the air simply moves into neighbouring bubbles.
The original version, a method for making laminated cushioning material, was patented in the 1950s by Sealed Air Corporation. Invented by Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding the pair were trying to create a new type of wallpaper by laminating two plastic sheets with air bubbles in the middle. As a wall covering the material never caught on, but it’s lightweight and insulating properties seemed very useful.
The new version while having all the same qualities as the former can now be shipped flat and inflated when needed, taking up around one-fiftieth of the space of the old product.
For some, however, the new technology has created a something of a hostile reaction. Fans of the original product have been voicing their opinions. On Twitter there was shock and outrage, while the news was met with horror by the Facebook group Popping Bubble Wrap which has more than half a million members.
Sealed Air Corporation have however confirmed, that the original version will still be available.
No, not the singer with X-Ray Spex who died in 2011 but Expandable Polystyrene Foam (EPS), used in a range of packaging products.
Another story that caught my eye was the ban on the use of polystyrene foam in New York. As of the 1 July, single use EPS products, cups, trays, plates and other packaging are not allowed to be possessed, sold or offered in New York. Businesses have a 6 month period to comply or face penalties.
EPS was invented by Otis McIntire in the 1940s and patented by the Dow Chemical Company. Small beads of polymer polystyrene are steamed with chemicals until they expand, blown into a mould, expanded again to fuse together and fill the mould.
The finished product is a lightweight, inexpensive material with good insulating properties making it ideal for the food industry.
Unfortunately, it’s not good for the environment. Due to the chemical processes used to turn the polystyrene beads into EPS it’s almost impossible to turn the EPS product into another EPS product. So recycling is not an option.
In the UK, Oxford has already banned non-recyclable food containers, making it a requirement that all street vendors use biodegradable boxes, cups and plates.
A reminder to patent applicants, if you do have an invention that has an environmental benefit, the IPO Green Channel scheme was introduced in 2009. It allows you to accelerate the processing of patents which have a benefit on the environment. You must request the accelerated process in writing, indicating how the invention is environmentally friendly and which actions you wish to accelerate.
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