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Is Shrinkwrap Actually Greener Than We Think?

Shrinkwrap is an incredibly common packaging material. It has so many uses!

Many companies use shrinkwrap film to protect their goods from damage while they are transported from one place to another. It’s not every day that people notice that washing machines and other white goods tend to come in shrinkwrap. However, one of the most common uses of shrinkwrap packaging that people are used to seeing is wrapped around products on supermarket shelves.

Shrinkwrap has a range of physical properties that make it a great option for food packaging. If shrinkwrap is properly applied by modern shrinkwrap packaging machinery then it can actually offer some very useful benefits. For example, products that are sealed inside a shrink film are protected from the outside world. This stops air from reaching the products inside and causing them to spoil.

It can also prevent people from touching food products when they are on display (which we can all agree is a good thing). So that highlights one of shrink wraps biggest benefits when it comes to being used for food packaging – it can increase the shelf life of many different products. It also stops foodstuffs being damaged while they are in transit. Because shrinkwrap shows marks and tears really easily, it can be great for identifying damage or tampering of products inside.

Another great feature of shrinkwrap is that it can be used on a wide range of different food products. It is easy to apply to all sorts of products, including irregular shaped, and different sized items, like you see with fresh fruits and vegetables. It also has great thermal properties so it can be used for products that need to be chilled or frozen.

Is Shrinkwrap Film Environmentally Friendly?

This is not a straightforward question to answer. In the past, shrinkwrap films have had a bit of a bad press. All plastic packaging has had serious negative impacts on the environment. There are many cases of plastic pollution in the sea, for example. However, it also requires a lot of fossil fuels to make too, from the basic constituents required in the first place, to the processing of the material itself.

It is important to balance this argument by pointing out that even packaging materials like cardboard have sizable carbon footprints. For many food manufacturers it often becomes a case of trying to work out which is better for their products on a case by case basis. Consumer behaviour has driven more and more companies to start using cardboard. Unfortunately, this has come at quite the environmental cost.

Is Cardboard Actually Green?

As it is made from a renewable resource, cardboard is considered by many to be the super green packaging material. Renewably sourced materials are great on paper, but there are some ecological impacts that somewhat undermine cardboard’s credibility on the green front.

Cardboard also takes up a lot of space, and is relatively heavy when compared to shrinkwrap. For example, transporting enough cardboard to wrap 100 products can take up a far greater amount of space in the back of a lorry. It is also much more heavy than the equivalent amount of shrinkwrap that would be required.

As you can see, there is no easy answer when it comes to cardboard vs shrinkwrap. Cardboard might be more popular with consumers, but that doesn’t make it the more environmentally friendly option. It really depends on the product in question and how it will be transported and stored.

What About Renewable Shrinkwrap Materials

The good news is that in recent years there have been many developments in the shrinkwrap film industry. It is now possible to create polymers that contain up to 51% sugarcane polyolefin. Now given that sugar cane is one of the more sustainable crops, using it to make everyday products is great news for the planet as long as new areas of land are not being cleared to produce it in the first place.

Can Shrinkwrap Be Recycled?

The short answer to this one is, yes it can! The long answer is, yes it can, but not if it has been contaminated with food. In this sense shrinkwrap is no different to cardboard, so they almost cancel each other out on recyclability. If packaging materials have been in contact with food it becomes more difficult to recycle them. This is one area where cardboard has an advantage because it can be easily composted instead. Most shirnkwrap materials cannot be composted because they do not biodegrade. However, there are compostable shirnkwrap materials on the market. They can provide all of the same benefits as normal shrinkwrap, which actually makes them much greener than the original shrink films that used to get so much bad publicity.

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