Dunnage Explained: Guide to Packaging for eCommerce

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

e-commerce packing and fulfillment

Dunnage is a commonplace term in the logistics industry that refers to the packaging components used when shipping products.

E-commerce fulfillment centers oftentimes incorporate dunnage when packing and shipping an order to help protect the products from damage during transport. Dunnage is especially important when the product being shipped is fragile, such as glassware. The more fragile the product, the more dunnage that is required.

As a consumer, you have probably dealt with dunnage in its many forms but perhaps simply tossed it without giving it much of a second thought. As a business owner, it's crucial to understand why dunnage is useful and what types of dunnage are most suited for your e-commerce store.

What is dunnage?

In the context of shipping and packaging, dunnage refers to the packing materials used in securing and supporting packages throughout the shipping process.

The types of dunnage used may depend on the industry and your business, but generally the main uses of dunnage are for:

  1. Damage protection The shipping and handling of packages can oftentimes damage the exterior, presenting risk for the actual product. The longer the shipping time, the more likely the package is to be damaged during its journey due to various factors such as uncontrollable environmental conditions or simply the extent to which the package is handled while in and out of sorting facilities.

  2. Moisture protection Depending on where the package is being shipped to, moisture can ruin the package and its interior contents. Specific dunnage can be used to prevent moisture damage, especially for expensive, non-water-resistant products such as electronics.

  3. Shock absorption It's important to use to right size packaging for your products, but it's also equally as important to use the right dunnage to pack the interior. With the amount of movement that comes with the shipping and handling process, products often shift and slide around within the package if packed improperly. Dunnage can prevent products from being damaged in instances when a package is dropped, squished, or accidentally thrown.

10 Types of dunnage

Hard plastics or bioplastics

Hard plastics are most commonly used in industrial, high-value shipping. They are more costly but may be worth the investment when shipping bulky, high-value products. Bioplastics are an eco-friendly packaging alternative that are usually derived from plant-based materials. They produce less greenhouse emissions in landfills than traditional (petrochemical-based) plastics, making them well-suited to composting.

Bubble wrap

Bubble wrap is the most common way to ship delicate items and are often the go-to packing material because it is cheap, reusable and flexible.

Corrugated bubble wrap

If you need to cushion a fragile item, an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bubble wrap is corrugated bubble wrap. This is typically made out of 100% recycled cardboard that’s derived from post-consumer and post-industrial waste.

Corrugated paper

The most commonly used elements in packaging are paper and cardboard, which can be easily reused and recycled by the consumer. They can be used for various package weights, protect against moisture damage, and provide sustainable packaging options. Most importantly, they are also readily and easily accessible no matter the demand or size of the business.

Kraft paper

Kraft paper is recycled crinkled paper commonly stuffed in a package. There are many benefits to using kraft paper because it's cost-effective, eco-friendly, reusable, and versatile.

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