Sustainable Packaging

Packing Tape

Self-Adhesive or Gummed: Which Paper Tape is Better?

Self-Adhesive or Gummed: Which Paper Tape is Better?

Paper Tape on eCommerce Box

Are you considering switching to paper tape. Or maybe already using self-adhesive paper tape and noticed the gummed tape. Or maybe you’re just researching out of interest.


It’s a common question, what is gummed tape and how is it different to self-adhesive?

Even though gummed paper tape was patented in 1946, not many people know what it really is. Today, we are going to address the pros, cons, good, and ugly of gummed and self-adhesive paper tape.

By the end, we hope you’ll have a better knowledge and understanding which choice is best for you.

Let’s get started …


Self-Adhesive Paper Tape

No doubt you’ve used some sort of tape in your life, most likely the plastic version. 

Nearly every business worldwide using the stuff to seal and secure cartons, boxes, bags and many items.

But tape can come in different materials, from paper to plastic to foam to foil. 

Plastic tape is by far the most common, being used since around the 1930’s.


Cost, easy to use, and availability.

Plastic tapes are often the cheaper option for many businesses, there available all the time, and only require a hand-gun to use. 

But, that’s not what we are here to talk about, let’s get on with paper tape. 

There are many different materials for paper tape, a lot of them with a Kraft paper backing and a synthetic rubber (Hot Melt) adhesive.

If you were to google “Self-adhesive paper tape”, many companies would claim the “100% Recyclable” clause, but in fact they are wrong. Just because it is made with paper doesn’t mean it’s fully recyclable.

Wow! Wait a minute! Does that mean self-adhesive paper tape isn’t more eco-friendly than plastic tape after all?

Plain Paper Tape 1

There’s 2 parts to the paper tape. The adhesive and the backing.

  1. The Adhesive – Made from a range of fancy materials, but to help you understand, it’s basically made from a thermoplastic material, which cannot be recycled.

OK, right now you’re probably thinking, “Paper tape isn’t worth it, it’s not recyclable, so not eco-friendly”. WRONG!


Gummed Paper Tape

This type of paper tape is definitely worth knowing about. There are a few big businesses out there using it, including Amazon and Aldi.

This tape is eco-friendly, and when we say eco-friendly, we mean eco-friendly.

But, it is a bit more complicated than standard self-adhesive tapes. Let’s find out a bit about what it actually is.

Gummed paper tape is made from a natural resource, either paper or potato starch. It has a natural glue which becomes sticky once it has been moistened with water. Hence why it’s also called water-activated tape (WAT). The tape requires more than just a standard hand held gun, but we’ll talk about that later.

So, what is good about it?

  • STRENGTH – Once moistened, the natural glue creates a bond to your carton. It basically becomes a part of your box, making an impressively strong seal.
  • TAMPER-EVIDENT – This is a great advantage, especially for those shipping valuable goods. As the tape creates a permanent bond with the box, when someone tries to remove the tape, the carton is noticeably damaged. So, gummed paper tape can actually prevent people from looking inside your parcel.
  • ECO-FRIENDLY – As this is made with natural materials, we can safely say, gummed paper tape is 100% recyclable. The only tape that is at the moment. This reduces your waste, improves customer satisfaction, boosts your eco credentials and reduces your environmental impact. 
  • COST-EFFECTIVE – Surprisingly, gummed paper tape is cost-effective. As the tape is so strong, only one strip of tape is needed across your box, saving tape, money and time. Also, the rolls can sometimes work out to be cheaper than standard tape. 
  • PRINTABLE – Another great benefit. Adding your own logo is easy when it comes to paper tape. It creates a memorable and unique unboxing experience for your customer.
Gummed Paper Tape On Box

How does gummed paper tape work?

This is where gummed paper tape becomes more complicated. 

It requires a small machine to make it sticky. 

There are many types of machines, from electric, automatic, manual, pull & tear, you name it.


These dispensers do require a slight investment, with the pricing being from around £50 for a pull & tear to £2000 for a fully electric machine. 

But it’s worth the investment. That’s why companies are starting to use it more. Amazon being the biggest user as you’ve probably seen. 


To summarise …

That’s it, the main differences between the two paper tapes. 

If you have eco goals, sustainable tapes are definitely worth considering. You just need to know which one!

In our opinion, if you’re a small business, a good place to start is the self-adhesive paper tape, it doesn’t require the machine investment, but it’s still a great sustainable alternative. 

For bigger businesses, shipping out many orders a week, a gummed paper tape is definitely worthwhile. 

Hopefully that’s given you a rough idea of gummed vs self-adhesive paper tape. So, if you’ve made up your mind, ready to become more sustainable, do your bit for the planet, you can get started. 

P.s. Our internal friendly team are well-up for a chat anytime to discuss your paper tape needs! ????



  1. Luke Smith

    I like that you talked about how gummed paper tape is surprisingly cost-effective. I received quite a lot of delivery packages before and I wondered what kind of tape they were using for the boxes, and from what I’ve heard, it seems to be gummed paper tape. Also, according to what I researched before, gummed paper tapes usually need dispensers, like Better Pack 755es.

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