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Biodegradable Shrink Film VS Plastic Shrink Film: Pros And Cons

By: Nathan Dube on May 12th, 2020

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Biodegradable Shrink Film VS Plastic Shrink Film: Pros And Cons

Packaging Materials  |  Environment

Before the arrival of COVID19, a large focus was on reducing plastic products like shopping bags, single-use containers, and packaging films.


Recently however, the EPA has further relaxed environmental protections. In some states, reusable bags and containers have been banned in place of single-use plastic. This is a much different approach than previous environmental trends, which signals a big comeback of single use plastics.


In this article, we will take a look at the pros and cons of biodegradable shrink films and plastic shrink films. As a result, you’ll have a better understanding of each product and be able to make an informed decision about the best packaging product for your needs.


What Are The Pros And Cons Of Biodegradable Shrink Films?



Pros Of Biodegradable Shrink Films



In a world more focused on trying to reduce the harm to our planet earth, biodegradable plastic products such as biodegradable shrink films are quickly becoming a common item searched for online.



Bio-polymer based shrink films like Nature Star are made from plants such as rice compounds. Nurel is another brand of biodegradable plant-based shrink film alternative. These products are made from bio-polymers and are the earth-friendly "plastics" of the emerging modern world.





These materials have a similar physical texture and aesthetic to traditional plastics, however, they are created from plant-based, biodegradable, and sustainable compounds. These compounds breakdown naturally into their plant-based byproducts.



This process happens much faster than traditional plastics. Traditional plastics can take thousands of years to breakdown and result in the presence of microplastics in our rainwater, rivers, streams, and oceans.



For the environmentally minded, bio-polymer based shrink films may seem like a godsend, or a miracle even. And while this cutting edge technology may be both of those things, there are some drawbacks to using these bio-polymer based shrink film alternatives.



Cons Of Biodegradable Shrink Films



Bio-polymer based shrink films like those detailed above are few and far between. There are currently only a few brands available, and they can be pricey when compared to traditional plastic shrink film.



Furthermore, as they are not commonly used on many packaging lines the world over (yet), these new materials have not been put to the test in many real-world applications. It is unclear if they will be able to offer the same qualities that plastic shrink film provides, such as strength, clarity, gloss, haze, and other related elements.



Finally, with COVID19 disrupting the supply chain, it is also unclear if rising demand for these environmentally friendly materials can be met. 



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What Are The Pros And Cons Of Traditional Plastic Shrink Films?



Pros Of Traditional Plastic Shrink Films



When it comes to flexible packaging supplies, plastic shrink films are some of the most environmentally friendly packaging materials currently available on the face of the planet.



Despite the occasional instances of green-washing campaigns, the truth remains. Shrink film, and certain types of other soft plastic formulations are our most sustainable options at this time.



Plastic shrink films such as polyolefin, polyethylene, and poly vinyl-chloride are also tried and true, trusted packaging materials that have stood the test of time. They are currently used on millions of packaging lines worldwide.





In a time where many businesses are going to be even more focused on their bottom line, adopting more expensive bio-films is challenging to do. This is especially true given the new relaxation of EPA standards and the return of popular single-use plastic items to the market place.



Despite the well known environmental issues with most flexible packaging plastics, they still have significantly less of an environmental impact due to a much lower carbon footprint than alternatives such as glass, metal, fabric, paper, and cardboard.



And while, unfortunately, many people do not realize it, shrink films are entirely recyclable. Depending on the volume of shrink film being recycled, some companies may even be able to make a profit from recycling their used shrink films!



Cons Of Traditional Plastic Shrink Films



Again, while plastic shrink films are recyclable, many people are unaware of this. As a result, they end up in landfills and find their way to waterways, rivers, streams, and eventually, the ocean. In this way, they contribute to a growing problem with ocean plastics.



Furthermore, there are some types of products that should not be packaged in shrink film, including any product that can not withstand the heat of a shrink tunnel. If your products are very heat sensitive, it is ill-advised to use shrink film to package them.



rolls of shrink film standing up with white backround



Finally, while shrink films are quite affordable materials, the machinery required to use them properly is not. The range of investments for shrink tunnels and sealers can range from $10,000 for a semi-automatic line, to over $100,000 for fully automatic.



Unless you have the budget or financing capabilities to make such large purchases, shrink film may not make sense for your packaging needs. That being said, you can do small runs of products with a heat gun or table-top shrink tunnel, which would cost you significantly less.



Which Type Of Shrink Film Is Right For You?



When trying to decide between bio-polymer based shrink films and traditional plastic shrink films, you need to make a few decisions in advance. Some of the questions that you’ll want to ask yourself are:


  • What is your monthly volume of products packaged? If you are low volume, plastic shrink film would be a better choice.
  • Is the type of film you want to use going to be available regularly? Right now, the supply chain is tight, USA made plastic shrink film has the best availability currently.
  • What are you willing to spend on materials in exchange for less of an environmental impact? If you are open to spending more to save the earth, bio-films are your best choice.
  • How are your consumers going to react to your choice of material? If your customers are heavily environmentally minded, bio-films are a better choice.
  • What are some conventional alternatives if shrink film is not a good fit for you? Paper or cardboard packaging may be useful and if done appropriately, can be fully recycled.



What are you willing to spend on materials in exchange for less of an environmental impact? How are your consumers going to react to your choice of material? Are your products safe to run through a shrink tunnel? What are some conventional alternatives if shrink film is not a good fit for you?



Once you have all these items figured out, you can start researching choosing the appropriate vendor. You will want to reach out to at least 3 or 4 different packaging suppliers and request information on their products and services. It would also be well advised to ask if a rep could come out to your location and do a free analysis of your packaging line's materials and machinery.



This will allow you to get an in-depth offering from each potential vendor and will enable you to dig into each one to choose the best company for your needs.



If you are not sure where to begin this process, you may want to reach out to one of Industrial Packaging's packaging experts. They will be able to help you find the right packaging supplies and machinery, even if that means they are not coming from us.



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About Nathan Dube

As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging, I am honored to create content for such a phenomenal company and work with one of the greatest teams in the Packaging Industry. Whether creating a video, writing blog posts or generating other pieces of content and multimedia, I am always excited to help educate and inspire our prospects and clients to reach their highest potential in regards to their packaging processes and needs.