Padding with paper cushion or air cushion - what works better?

Air cushion and paper cushion

Very popular and used in almost every package: a padding of paper or air, so that the goods arrive undamaged at the recipient. But which padding option is actually better?

A blanket answer to this question is not possible. The question is always what is important to you. Does only product protection count for you, or is it about sustainability, costs or efficiency in packaging?

First of all: this is about padding in the box, not about filling empty spaces. See also our article on the difference between filling and padding material.

The question of sustainability is a very interesting one. We will deal with this in a separate article, as the topic is very multifaceted. But we'll say this much in advance: even if the common opinion is that paper is more sustainable as a cushioning material, this is often not the case. This means that padding with paper does not necessarily do any good for the environment.

Let's look at a few general factors first. For example, it stands to reason that a paper cushion can be compressed under load and does not return to its original state afterwards. This is different with air cushions. Air cushions distribute pressure in all directions when loaded and use voids between the cushions to expand. When the pressure is released, the air cushion is still the same size as before and offers the same protection during the next impact. Exception: you load too heavily . Then, of course, the air cushions burst!


Another aspect is the material consumption. It can be assumed that when using air cushions (also called air cushion mats), you only need about 1/10 of the material  than when using cushions made of paper! This means that if you currently need 1 ton of air cushion material , you will probably need about 10 tons of paper to achieve the same! An immense difference, right? This means that you have a much smaller storage space requirement when using air pillows. From one roll of air cushion mat ProtectAir Clima100 with 2 large cushions, you get for example 6.6 m³ of filling material, while with 1 roll of packing paper Polsterboss you produce only 1.25 m³ of volume. Both are good, but there are big differences.

It should also be noted that when using paper, the mood of the packer plays a big role. If he is in a good mood and has energy to spare, he tends to compress the paper more and thus use up more material. This is more difficult with air pillows, because they cannot be made smaller by squeezing and maintain the volume.



When it comes to cost, no blanket statement can be made either. For example, the use of recycled material makes the paper padding much cheaper than paper padding made of virgin fiber. However, the recycled paper also has less stability and you tend to use more.

An exception, where paper padding are more favorable, is when bulky equipment/furniture is packed in cartons, for example. In this case, the goods can be securely "clamped" in the carton with just a few firm paper cushions. Air cushions, on the other hand, can easily be used to completely pad a carton so that all-round protection is provided. This is more difficult with paper cushions.

In terms of efficiency, air pillows are more efficient due to lower material usage and roll changes. In terms of pure packaging activity, both are about equally fast.

In terms of cost, air pillows also perform significantly better in most cases, even when overhead units for stock production are also considered. Air cushion machines are generally smaller and less expensive than paper cushioning machines.



In almost all areas air cushion pads perform better. Nevertheless, paper cushions are among the most frequently used cushioning materials because it is generally assumed that paper use is more sustainable. The question that often counts here is: What do customers want to see when they open your boxes?