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Tape & Strapping: Chosing the Best for your Cardboard Boxes

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Paper strapping for cardboard boxes

Traditionally, tape is big in the world of packaging. It’s used, of course, to construct and seal cardboard boxes before they are shipped off to their final destination, i.e. the happy customer.

The process of taping up a cardboard box is relatively straightforward. Once it’s folded into its 3D shape, the flaps on the underside of the box are taped together. The necessary product and packaging are put inside, perhaps some void fill is added if appropriate and then, finally, the top flaps are sealed shut. Maybe an extra strip or two of tape is used just be on the safe side, but this isn’t always necessary, especially for professional packers who have the right materials. That's all it takes to get the job done, the box secure and its contents safe and protected. If a box needs to be stacked alongside others on a pallet, this is where strapping comes into play. But does it have any other uses and how does environmentally friendly paper strapping compare to the plastic version we're all used to?

In this article, we take a look at the tapes and strapping currently on the market and we look at the benefits of using each type. Finally, we sum up any stand-out qualities and plus points at the end of each description.

Different types of Tape & Strapping

Acrylic Polypropylene Tape

Acrylic tape, is the type of tape with which most of us are familiar whether we work in the packaging industry or not. The chances are that you refer to it as Sellotape. Sellotape is, of course, just a brand name, there are many others out there on the market.

Known also as packaging or polypropylene tape, acrylic tape is so named because it’s an acrylic based adhesive tape used for sealing boxes and other packaging materials. It’s also popular as a means of carrying out countless other household jobs (wrapping presents, picking up pet hair, arranging flowers, etc.) Strong, durable and water resistant, acrylic tape easy to use - a great everyday all-rounder. We’re willing to bet that there won’t be a household or a business on earth that doesn’t have a roll of this stuff.

As far as cardboard boxes are concerned, acrylic tape is a reliable and cost-effective option when it comes to sealing them effectively. It’s a must-have for anyone who frequently ships or stores items, but remember, it’s a thermoplastic so isn’t biodegradable.

CASE FOR USE: strong, long-lasting, water resistant, cost-effective, multifunctional

Vinyl tape

If the products you’re shipping are relatively heavy, then you might want to go for a packaging tape that’s known for its strength in order to have additional peace of mind. Our durable vinyl tape is the perfect option coming in two colours: clear or brown. With an incredibly strong and long-lasting seal made from a rubber solvent adhesive, vinyl tape is perfect for boxes and cartons that are the at the heavier end of the scale.

Considering its durability, this is a modest tape; it doesn’t shout about its qualities. By that we mean that it’s quiet to use; you don’t get that annoying ripping sound as the adhesive stretches as it comes away from the roll. Additional bonus, vinyl tape doesn’t get temperamental when it comes to variations in temperature and it’s tear resistant.

CASE FOR USE: extra-strong, easy to use, temperature and tear resistant, no noise operation

Paper packaging tape

In terms of manufacture, acrylic tape isn’t as bad for the environment as you might think; no toxic emissions, toxic waste, fluorocarbons or halogens are involved. However, at the other end of its life, things don’t look so rosy: being a thermoplastic, it’s not biodegradable.

Luckily, there’s an environmentally friendly alternative: paper-based packaging tape. High performing not least because of its (ecologically sound) hot-melt adhesive that aggressively binds on contact, it’s perfect for e-commerce businesses looking to big up their ecological credentials but ensure their packages are left unscathed during the shipping process. And let’s face it, paper packaging tape also has the edge as far as pleasing aesthetics are concerned. 

CASE FOR USE: strong, durable, looks good, environmentally friendly, protective

Water activated tape

You might be familiar with water activated tape (AKA Tegrabond) because it’s habitually used by Amazon on their cardboard box shipments. Sometimes referred to as gummed paper packing tape, it’s high-quality and its closely woven fibres mean it’s super strong.

Water activated tape is ideal for high-speed e-commerce packing stations because it’s easy to use; on average it’s 22% faster to apply than standard packing tape. Extremely reliable; it can’t be punctured and actually bonds to the cardboard making it tamper-proof: it’s unable to be peeled off and then stuck down again. Even better, it can be dispensed in specific sizes making it far easier to standardise consumption compared to traditional packing tape.

Up front it might seem as though water activated tape is a more expensive option but take all its benefits into long term consideration and the costs reduce significantly.

CASE FOR USE: fast and easy to use, environmentally friendly, size-adjustable, tamper proof

Custom printed packing tape

A sure-fire way to elevate your brand is by printing your logo or marketing message on your packaging and packaging tape makes an inexpensive vehicle for a perfect branding opportunity.

Tape is a great way to show off your company's personality by making packages look professional and also, helping them to stand out from the crowd. Printed tape will give packaging a premium appearance, plus, the tape’s already doing a job, so why not make it work twice as hard.

If you choose to print on paper packaging tape, you’re also sending a message about your commitment to sustainability, but it’s possible to print on any type of tape, including acrylic tape and vinyl tape.

There are other benefits to using printed tape aside from promotion. Printed tape can negate the need to print on the cardboard boxes themselves so it’s a cheaper proposition, but no less impactful. Additionally, printed tape can be used as a means of ensuring a smoother delivery process by alerting carriers to whether products are fragile or perishable.

CASE FOR USE: branding potential, dual purpose, inexpensive but effective, informative

Paper Strapping

Paper Strapping recyclable & biodegradable

Plastic polypropylene strapping has been routinely used to brace stacked pallets, but there is an environmentally friendlier alternative - plastic free pallet strapping, also known as pallet banding. This kind of strapping is far easier to dispose of because it can be recycled alongside paper and cardboard so time doesn’t need to be taken to separate it from biodegradable goods. And it might seem like a small point, but paper strapping can be folded more easily. It doesn't ping out of the bin like plastic strapping, which doesn't enjoy being bent.

The good news is that paper strapping - indeed, any strapping - doesn’t just have to be employed for securing loads on pallets; it’s also useful for reinforcing individual heavy boxes or holding flat packaging together before it's required. However, if it is bought to be used on pallets, then it's makes a great alternative to plastic stretch wrap, which can be far more time consuming and labour intensive to utilise.

Some might argue that paper strapping isn’t always as strong as its plastic counterpart, but even so, it's still extremely robust. Take The Packaging Club’s innovative paper pallet strapping for example, which is manufactured from natural fibres to ensure high tensile strength. And paper strapping is one step closer in the packaging industry's attempt to significantly reduce plastic waste whilst ensuring that boxes can be bundled or stacked together and secured properly. Making the switch to paper strapping doesn't need to be expensive in terms of updating equipment: most automatic plastic strapping machines will be able to us paper strapping equally as well, making the transition to sustainability more seamless than ever.

CASE FOR USE: strong, sustainable, compostable, easy to dispose of, multiple uses

To conclude…

Whichever tape or strapping you decide to go for, if it’s quality you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place: The Packaging Club. We will always have a packaging solution to meet your business' needs and your budget. Whatever your requirements, we'll point you in the right direction and make sure that you're never left in a - sorry, we couldn't resist this - sticky situation when it comes to getting your products to your customers.

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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