Plastic shrink wrap has become an incredibly popular packaging material for companies across many industries. Its ability to tightly conform to the shape of a product makes it ideal for securing items during shipping and protecting them from damage.
If you’re considering using shrink wrap for your product packaging, it’s important to understand the different types available and the key benefits this versatile material can provide.
What is Plastic Shrink Wrap?
Shrink wrap refers to a thin plastic film that shrinks tightly around an object when heat is applied. The film is made of polymers that stretch when heated, and then shrink back down as they cool. This allows the plastic to wrap very closely around products of many shapes and sizes.
It comes in large rolls of thin plastic sheeting. It can be cut to size and sealed with heat to create a tight enclosure around products. A shrink wrap “tunnel” uses hot air to cause the film to shrink down. This creates a skintight covering that hugs the contours of the packaged items.
There are a few main types of plastic polymers used to make shrink wrap:
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – One of the first widely used shrink films, PVC is relatively inexpensive but can release toxic chemicals when heated. It has fallen out of favor due to sustainability concerns.
- Polyolefin – A popular shrink film made from polyethylene that has high clarity and gloss. It shrinks quickly and is puncture and tear-resistant.
- Polyethylene – polyethylene shrink wrap comes in low density (LDPE) and linear low density (LLDPE). It’s not as clear as other films but is very strong and can be made quite thick for heavy-duty applications.
Each plastic shrink wrap has slightly different properties that make it suitable for certain uses. The right choice depends on factors like clarity, strength, shrink percentage, and application. Many also have food-safe options for packaging edibles.
Using plastic shrink wrap for product packaging offers a number of advantages:
1. Protection from Damage
One of the biggest benefits of shrink wrap is protection. The tight fit around all surfaces of a product helps prevent damage from impacts, abrasion, weather, and more during shipping and handling. It also deters tampering or theft of package contents.
Shrink wrap can cushion irregularly shaped items and keep components from shifting around inside boxes. For pallets of goods, a shrink-wrapped outer layer unitizes the load so it moves as a single unit. This vastly reduces the chance of damage in transit.
2. Professional Appearance
In addition to protection, the tight clinging wrap provides a streamlined, professional look to packaged goods. The transparency gives a clear view of labels and contents while keeping items clean and dust-free. High gloss polyolefin films offer maximum shine and product visibility.
This sleek appearance enhances shelf appeal for retail products. Shrink-wrapped books, games, consumer goods, and foods are showcased nicely throughout the film. The see-through wrap builds perceived value while allowing barcode scans and other identification.
3. Cost Effectiveness
Shrink wrap is one of the most affordable protective packaging options. The thin plastic rolls require minimal material to cover products. Simple heat application shapes it into almost any product, keeping labor time and costs low. Standard polyolefin and polyethylene films have very reasonable costs for both materials and equipment.
Less material waste also adds to the cost efficiency. It can conform to small or odd-shaped items with little excess. The material is lightweight compared to boxes and other rigid packaging, saving on shipping fees. All of this makes shrink wrap extremely budget-friendly.
Plastic shrink wrap is designed to be quick and easy to use for high-throughput packaging operations. Many systems are very automated, with machines to cut, seal, and shrink wrap with minimal labor. Hand-held wand systems also simplify shrink-wrapping small batches or individual products.
The wrap films themselves are lightweight and easy to handle. Their flexibility facilitates quick coverage of items and pallets without intricate folding and taping. Overall, shrink wrapping streamlines the packaging process compared to alternatives.
Finally, responsible plastic use can be a sustainable choice. Look for films made from recyclable LDPE, LLDPE, and polyolefin – these have high recycling rates. Avoid PVC which can release toxins when burned. Proper recycling programs minimize landfill waste from these materials.
Also, utilize automated systems to prevent the overuse of plastic. When shrink wrapping by hand, train staff to use only as much as needed to wrap an item securely. With mindful use, it can be an environmentally responsible packaging option.
Recycling Plastic Shrink Wrap
To maintain the sustainability benefits, it’s important to recycle shrink-wrap waste whenever possible. Here are tips for proper recycling:
- Separate plastic films from other recyclables – they often go to different facilities.
- Remove labels, tape, or any other non-plastic items from the used wrap.
- Take high volumes of clean shrink wrap to local plastic recycling centers. Many accept these films.
- For lower quantities, check if your municipal recycling program accepts plastic bags and films. If so, combine clean shrink wrap with your regular curbside pickup.
- Return plastic film to suppliers with take-back programs when available. Some vendors will reuse their own material.
With proper use and recycling, plastic shrink wrap can be an affordable and responsible packaging choice. It protects items, looks professional on shelves, and simplifies the packaging process. Consider it as a versatile option to safely transport your products and impress customers.
Plastic shrink wrap makes an excellent protective packaging material for many applications. It shrinks down for a tight, contoured fit to secure products for shipping and retail display. It comes in several plastic varieties to suit specific use cases. It provides protection, appealing visibility, cost efficiency, and packaging convenience.
With responsible use and recycling, shrink wrap can also be a sustainable choice. For these reasons, it is a top option for companies across industries looking to transport their products damage-free.