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Taking the Tube - The Ultimate Guide to Cardboard Postal Tubes

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Round Cardboard Postal Tubes - stack of 6 in total. Cardboard tubes designed for shipping and storing wide format prints. Sold in the UK in small packs.

When it comes to The Packaging Club, we’re always making tweaks and adjustments to ensure our products have evolved into packaging that is the best it can possibly be, whether that means pop-up construction, interlocking tabs or flaps allowing for variable height contents without the need for void fill.

Cardboard postal tubes however are unique in that, fundamentally, they’re a basic 3D shape that is yet to be bettered in terms of design, especially in terms of strength, reliability and recyclability.

A tube is perfect for sending an item that you don’t want to have to fold: certificates, posters, prints, magazines, paintings, signs, banners, maps, architectural designs, engineering schematics etc., the list goes on. A tube negates the need for a ‘do not bend’ sticker and makes the ‘fragile’ one optional. So mighty is its cylindrical form that it would be virtually impossible to crease or crush anything a postal tube might contain, unless you were seriously committed to that very task and even then, you’d have to put a lot of effort in.

Poster Shipping Cardboard Tubes
Cardboard Postal Tubes great for storage

And it’s not just documentation that can be sent securely and virtually risk-free in postal tubes. Coming in all lengths and diameters means that cardboard postal tubes are also ideal for shipping all manner of long, thin objects, from fishing rods and umbrellas to golf clubs and walking sticks. They’re also useful for delivering art supplies like pencils, pens and brushes, as well as any number of interior design products: wallpaper, for example, or curtains, window blinds and other fixtures and fittings.

Tubes beat triangles

Some packaging aficionados would have us believe that triangular boxes are a viable alternative to tubes and they certainly look slick. However, with the exception of providing us with Toblerone – something each and every one of us should fully support - we respectfully disagree.

We admit that there’s a slight risk when dealing with tubes that they roll about a bit, especially when stored in numbers, but we feel that’s easily overcome by thoughtful (and inexpensive) storage solutions. And it is true to say, that unlike rectangular packaging, tubes can’t be supplied as flat nets to be constructed when needed, which is, of course, due to their manufacture: lengths of cardboard ribbons are bound together with specialised adhesive in the shape of a spiral. However, this means that a) your workforce doesn’t have to spend valuable time putting packaging together and b) that the tube can’t be crushed, its spiral construction signifying a far more robust and reinforced structure than that of its triangular counterpart. Just ask snails. Found everywhere in nature and ubiquitous in mathematics, spirals are not only mesmerising to look at, they’re also known for being strong and tough.

But what about other factors such as cost effectiveness and saving space during transit, we hear you ask? Well, cardboard tubes have proved themselves just as good as triangular packaging when it comes to these things. So why reinvent the wheel just for the sake of it?

Cardboard tubes can be recycled

One consideration must be recycling. And as far as this is concerned, the wood pulp fibres making up cardboard tubes means they’re incredibly environmentally friendly. And if you’re worrying about the adhesive used in their production, then don’t: these days it’s mostly starch based derived from natural carbohydrates or water based (like ours) which means it’s ecologically sound as well.

They're great for archiving, storage and arts and crafts

Cardboard Postal Tubes with White End Caps
Cardboard tubes - great for shipping or storage

But what you mustn’t do is relegate your cardboard postal tube to the recycling bin or the compost heap after one use. Able to be kept and used indefinitely, tubes can be saved and sent through the post repeatedly. Alternatively, they provide an excellent means of archiving and storing. At The Packaging Club, our tubes are all UV proof, so not only do they keep valuable documents or photographs safe and sound, they also prevent paper from discolouring and ink or images from fading.

Nothing that needs storing? If that’s the case, then it’s practically an obligation to re-purpose cardboard tubes for a spot of arts and crafts. Who hasn’t wanted to try their hand at making a pencil holder, model castle tower, DIY marble run or a pair of homemade binoculars? Ask Google what you can do with a cardboard tube and stand back: the possibilities are varied, interesting and infinite.

And it’s not just small people who get a lot from them. Gardeners have used tubes for years as an alternative to plastic pots and for protecting saplings and young trees as they establish themselves. Additionally, if Pinterest is to be believed, then the humble tube gives us all the opportunity to build own wine racks, coffee tables or shoe tidies. Meanwhile, speak to any film industry insider and they’ll tell you that due to their lightweight, versatile nature, cardboard tubes are habitually used as props. Over the years, they’ve been transformed into organ pipes, post boxes, trees, sewerage systems and oil drums. The prize however, for their most inventive and extraordinary use goes to the architects and builders of the Christchurch cathedral in New Zealand. Rebuilding the former cathedral, destroyed by the earthquake 2011, they used nothing other than cardboard tubes to create the new roof. We might advise you not to take your junk modelling skills quite this far.

Whatever you decide to do with your postal tubes, at The Packaging Club you’re able to choose from ten different sizes meaning you get the ones with the correct dimensions for your products. We’ve mentioned that our tubes are fully recyclable, but we’d like to point out that they’ve actually already been recycled, as they’re made from post-consumer material! Tear resistant and crush resistant, even their monofilament plastic end caps are 100% recyclable.

Our postal tubes will be shipped to you directly from our team of manufacturers right here in the U.K., meaning we can keep costs lower and supply chains flowing. And if you want to have your tubes custom printed to enhance your brand image, you can, just speak to one of our team. In fact, speak to one of our team if you have any questions, whatever they’re about. Although we might be a little busy working on our wine racks and shoe tidies, we’ll be happy to set those aside whilst we help you find the right packaging solutions for your business.

Click here to shop our full range of postal tubes.

This article was written by...

Jo Hilton

I studied at the University of St. Andrews and have an MA in French and German. For a number of years, I worked for a Swiss financial institution and lived in Hamburg, London, Zürich and NYC before retraining as a primary school teacher and settling with my family in Cambridgeshire. When I'm not at school, I write content for various blogs and edit academic research articles for clients at ETH Zürich and the University of Munich. I'm also in the process of completing a Masters in Crime and Thriller writing at the University of Cambridge, so behind me you'll find a trail of fictional dead bodies and actual biscuit wrappers.

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