Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day Billion dollar packing industry was created by Stevens grad

Have you ever gotten a gift that came with bubble wrap that was better than the gift itself?

Instead of gazing at Aunt Sally’s tacky ceramic gnome, you spent hours popping every last bubble of the therapeutic casing.

It’s an addiction that afflicts millions of Americans every year, and a Stevens graduate and New Jersey inventor is to blame. In fact, most of the world’s bubble wrap still comes from New Jersey.

Last Monday, Jan. 26, was national “Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day,” which celebrates late New Jersey resident Alfred W. Fielding, the co-inventor of bubble wrap.

Today, Sealed Air Corporation, based in Saddle Brook, which Fielding co-founded, is a worldwide producer of packaging materials with annual revenues of over $3 billion.

According to officials from Sealed Air, the story of bubble wrap begins in a garage in Hawthorne N.J. in 1957, when two entrepreneurial engineers, Fielding and his partner, Swiss inventor Marc Chavannes, were hard at work trying to invent a plastic wall paper with a paper back.

The attempts at making wallpaper failed, but what they did discover was that their invention was incredibly effective as packing material. Before that time, the only real option available was crumpled up newspaper.

Shortly after its discovery, they trademarked the name “Bubble Wrap” and founded the Sealed Air Corporation.

According to Dr. Robert Banks, a chemical engineering professor at Stevens, “Unintended invention is more common than you might think, and the invention of Bubble Wrap is a great example.”

Pop it

A native of Hackensack, N.J., Fielding graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1939. He earned a master of science from Stevens in 1943. The university later awarded him an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1986.

Fielding is in the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame for his role in creating Bubble Wrap, and was also inducted into membership of The Newcomen Society of the United States in 1982. The Newcomen Society recognizes pioneers who have laid the foundations for major enterprises.

Fielding was also particularly generous to his alma mater, providing funds for a laboratory established during his lifetime, and through his family’s continued generosity, for the future establishment of an endowed chairmanship on the Stevens faculty.

Also, a conference room in the university’s main administration building was named in his honor.


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