Sustainability In the Shrinkwrap Industry

Predictions for the Shrinkwrap Industry

About Iain McCartney
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What is shrinkwrap?

Shrink wrap is a widely used packaging material thanks to its versatility and affordability. Shrinkwrap is waterproof, durable, tamper-proof and allows products to remain easily identifiable. It is easy for manufacturers to print useful information on it too. Use of shrinkwrap packaging also improves protection of items, meaning lower costs from damaged and unsaleable products. It is also the most lightweight of packaging options which adds to its cost-effectiveness, in terms of reduced storage space and cheaper transportation costs (as well as fewer emissions during transportation).

The introduction of shrinkwrap transformed the packaging industry, particularly in the food industry, but its use extends from sealing confidential examination papers to shrink wrapping boats for weather protection. Over time the use of shrinkwrap has become more widespread; however, in recent times more organisations have begun to move away from plastic packaging for materials that are ostensibly more eco-friendly. With this in mind, the shrinkwrap industry has been evolving to find ways to improve its ecological and carbon footprints, and modern shrinkwrap films have become far greener than previous generations. This is something to be celebrated because shrinkwrap provides so many benefits. So as the introduction of the Plastic Packaging Tax is upon us we wanted to look at some of the trends we expect to see in the packaging industry in 2022 and beyond.

 

Increased uptake of shrinkwrap as a packaging option

Use of shrinkwrap packaging is predicted to grow given the number of advantages it has over other types of packaging. Furthermore, as the food industry grows, so does the need for sustainable shrinkwrap packaging. There are numerous advantages of using shrinkwrap for food packaging, such as reduced spoiling, as it protects food from oxygen (resulting in a longer shelf life and less food waste), lighter to transport than other packaging materials (reduced costs) and goods remaining visible so easily identifiable to the consumer (shelf appeal). Shrinkwrap can help address wider environmental issues too; for instance, by products being suitable for consumption for longer. This results in less food waste and reduced use of energy and resources as fewer deliveries are required to keep shelves stocked over time.

 

The impact of shrinkwrap on the environment

Unfortunately, the majority of plastic shrink wrap cannot be reused or recycled, either due to its composition, or because of its use. For instance, shrinkwrap used for in food packaging or from around hazardous waste containers cannot be reused for health and safety reasons. This is the same for cardboard packaging too. Furthermore, shrink wrap film is often inextricably attached to a large amount of non-plastic components (e.g., sand or paper) and cannot be recycled as the excess non-plastic material is difficult to remove. Again this is something we see with hybrid packaging that may use cardboard and a polyolefin window to view the products within.

Conventional plastic shrink wrap usually ends up in landfill or is incinerated. Unfortunately old generation shrinkwrap materials can take hundreds of years to break down and in doing so they can produce harmful microplastics (fragments of plastic less than 5 mm in length that end up in the food chain, air and the ocean and cause organ damage). Landfill sites are responsible for habitat loss and the release of greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane) which result in climate change. All that being said, there are shrinkwrap materials available today that are compostable, which can remove the negative impacts associated with disposal of used packaging.

 

Increased use of greener shrinkwrap materials

Not only is a conscious move towards more sustainable shrinkwrap options good for the environment, it also improves your brand identity by improving consumer perception. Consumers today are very environmentally aware and will be looking to buy products that have as low an environmental impact as possible, from businesses demonstrating responsible corporate social responsibility.

The very first shrinkwrap was made from polyethylene or PVC; today’s shrinkwrap films are much more environmentally friendly. Polyolefin polymers are a green shrink film option; they are strong, odourless, tasteless and can be recycled. Other sustainable shrinkwrap films are made from ethically sourced plant-based materials such as sugarcane or corn starch.

At Kempner we provide a wide range of environmentally friendly shrinkwrap film products which are fully compliant with EC legislation and ASTM standards, for example our sugarcane polyolefin is made of up to 51% sugarcane cellulose. We also supply ultra-thin polyolefin shrink films which use less material than standard shrinkwrap, without compromising on strength or appearance. This means fewer resources are used to create it in the first place and less waste material is generated if it isn’t able to be recycled.
Our experts at Kempner have a vast amount of packaging experience and are able to advise on the most suitable green shrinkwrap packaging options to suit all your requirements.

 

Increased use of automated shrinkwrap machinery

Shrinkwrap machinery allows businesses to package a high volume of products as efficiently as possible. Fully automated shrinkwrap machinery can generate 100 packs per minute. The advantages tend to offset the cost of the machinery, for instance lower handling time and labour and increased energy efficiency.

 

The impact of the new Plastic Packaging Tax on the shrinkwrap industry

The new UK Plastic Packaging Tax came into force in April 2022, to encourage more companies to adopt more sustainable packaging options and improve recyclability. The Plastic Packaging Tax applies to shrinkwrap packaging containing under 30% recycled material for companies manufacturing or importing over 10 tonnes of packaging per year. In the short term, the prices of more sustainable shrinkwrap films are likely to increase, given the increase in demand for them.


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