This may be unexpected coming from a guy who sells boxes for a living, but I am the first to admit sometimes the best shipping container is not a box. Even though corrugated die cut mailers and RSC style shipping boxes both offer excellent protection and are relatively low cost, today’s fast rising packaging and shipping costs make this an excellent time to consider the wide variety of mailer envelopes available today.

Does the Application Really Require a Box?
We work with so many shippers of many different products that it is not unusual to find a product that is shipping in a box just “because it always has.” The most common miss-application we see is with soft goods such as tee shirts, golf towels and clothing unnecessarily shipping in corrugated boxes. Certainly those products are not fragile or subject to damage, and in terms of cleanliness, many would contend that a corrugated box is probably not the cleanest, or most dust free, option.

At the same time, a large assortment of hard goods including books, DVDs and even pharmaceuticals are commonly shipped in mailer envelopes. Remember, a product does not have to be soft in order to be unbreakable, so each item should be individually reviewed.

Seven Advantages of Mailer Envelopes 
The advantages of mailer envelopes are numerous and they include:
1. First and foremost, they are usually lightweight compared to corrugated boxes. When every ounce matters, mailer envelopes save money. 
2. They are compact and efficient to store and to ship 
3. Most have easy peel adhesive strips, eliminating the need for tape or glue
4. They usually reduce labor and packing time compared to forming, filling and sealing a corrugated box.
5. The cost of messy and laborious void fill can be completely eliminated when a shipping box is too large.
6. Many mailers can be custom-printed and branded in smaller quantities than comparable size boxes.
7. There are automatable versions of some mailers with available equipment options designed to improve packing efficiencies and eliminate labeling.

Will That Be Paper or Plastic?
That may be the last question they ask at the grocery store but probably the first question you should ask yourself if you are considering utilizing mailers. Paper-based products are of course the greenest options because most have a high recycled content, are biodegradable, compostable and easily recyclable. Most paper mailers can be custom printed and are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, including gusseted versions, which create three dimensional shipping containers for higher profile products.

Plastic mailers provide several advantages, as well, but the two key ones are that plastic is both lightweight and water resistant. From a green perspective, many are now available in biodegradable versions or depending on resin type used, can be easily recycled wherever a common plastic grocery bag is recycled. 

Padded or Plain?
Another decision that needs to be made is one of cushioned versus unpadded mailers. The good news is that paper padded mailers typically are filled with shredded newspaper, which is usually 100% post- consumer waste. The down side of that is that they tend to be a little heavier than their plastic counterparts; however, for customers who want the greenest available packaging and their product requires some protection, paper padded mailers are definitely the best option. 
Plastic padded mailers are usually lined with bubble packaging, but please remember that not all bubble packaging is created equal. Ask about the composition and specifically about the recyclability because some bubble versions are not recyclable at all or only under very specific and rare circumstances. We always aim for the easiest possible recycling option for any product we offer because we know that greatly improves the odds that the product will not end up in a landfill. Whatever you do, please do NOT use mailers that are paper on the outside and plastic bubble on the inside because they cannot be recycled and can only end up as landfill waste.

As always, seek the advice of a good packaging supplier who offers multiple options. They can usually supply samples and will assist in the evaluation and testing process.