Nathan Dube

By: Nathan Dube on October 8th, 2020

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Shrink Film: Biodegradable VS Recyclable, Which Is Right For You?

Packaging Materials | Environment

Up until 2020, many supermarkets and other corporate entities were making it a point to phase out single-use plastics such as bags, cups, and straws.

After the arrival of the corona virus, however, many of these institutions backpedaled on these decisions. They once again opted for single-use plastics as they had been proven to be safer options in the battle against COVID.


Eventually, this pandemic will be over. And when that day comes, you can be sure that the environmental movement will be going full swing once again. We will likely see consumers once again demanding earth-friendly plastic alternatives to help protect the environment.


Lately, we at Industrial Packaging have been getting questions about the various types of shrink films and their more environmentally friendly alternatives.


Most recently, we received a rather interesting question from a prospect: Regarding shrink film, which is best for me? Recyclable OR Biodegradable?


The honest answer to this question is, it depends! We will answer this questions based upon actual applications. This is case sensitive for each customer based upon their budget, their monthly volume of film used, and a few other different variables.


In this article, we explore this question in-depth and help you understand which type of shrink film mentioned above is right for your unique packaging needs and business requirements.



Recyclable Shrink Film


We will get a request from a customer for information about shrink film alternatives from time to time. This usually happens when their clients start asking for, or in some cases, clients demand that the business stops using plastics and opts for alternative materials that are more "eco-friendly".


When this happens, we tend to get into some interesting conversations that, in many cases, the client is surprised by. This is due to several reasons. First and foremost, many clients are taken aback by a simple truth that traditional plastic shrink films are, in most cases, fully recyclable.


What many people do not know, even some of those who have been using shrink film for decades is that traditional plastic shrink films are, in most cases, fully recyclable.


Most people do not know about the fact that while shrink film can be recycled, most towns and waste management companies do not have the appropriate infrastructure or machinery for recycling the material.


Therefore, most waste management companies do not accept shrink film as a viable material for recycling and often tell people NOT to put it in their recycling bins. This results in many people thinking that it is not recyclable.


To recycle shrink film, you need to use specialized third-party recycling companies such as Rubicon, who will pick up your used shrink film for recycling. Companies like Rubicon may actually PAY YOU for recycling large volumes of used shrink film!


So, in the end, traditional plastic shrink film is, in fact, the appropriate choice of film when you are looking to source a material that can be recycled and is thus sustainable. The downside is that you have to work with specialized waste management vendors who can accommodate this type of material's recycling process.



Biodegradable Shrink Film


Biodegradable shrink film is made from biodegradable biopolymer-based plastics, which are made from plants like rice. These bio-plastic shrink films degrade much faster than traditional plastic films which can take up to 1000+ years to biodegrade fully.


People looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional shrink films may find interest in bio-plastic films. However, these types of film can be a bit of a catch 22. While biodegradable plastics will break down much faster than traditional plastics, they cannot be recycled.


Furthermore, some types of bio-degradable plastics must follow specific protocols to degrade at the desired rate. Bioplastics that do not end up in a proper composting process either in-home or at the industrial level may take longer to degrade when ending up as litter in natural areas such as rivers, waterways, and woodlands.


So while bio-plastics are potentially better for the environment than traditional plastics, that hinges on whether bio-plastics are being correctly disposed of..


If your company and consumers are able and willing to follow the proper composting protocols for the disposal of biodegradable shrink film alternatives, then they would be a good choice for your business regarding environmental impact.


Need Help Choosing The Right Shrink Film?

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Shrink Film And Sustainability


When trying to choose a sustainable shrink film for your product packaging, there is no "one size fits all" solution to this equation. In some cases, traditional shrink film may be a more sustainable choice over bio-films.


For example, if the majority of your customers are not passionate about proper disposal techniques and just throw the bio-plastic items into the trash, then using traditional plastic shrink films and recycling them would be a better choice.


If, on the other hand, your consumers are open to implementing proper disposal methods for bio-plastics, but are not interested in sourcing a specialized third-party recycling vendor, bio-based films would be a better choice for your packaging requirements.


How To Make The Right Shrink Film Choice For The Environment


If you are looking to source the best choice of shrink film for the least impact upon the environment, you will need to ask yourself a few questions. With the answers to these questions, you can make an educated decision between traditional plastic films or modern biodegradable alternatives.


  • Are you and your consumers passionate about recycling? If you answered yes, you are going to want to go with traditional plastic shrink film formulations. You will need to connect with a specialized third party who can recycle films, but you may even profit from doing so. Remember, you cannot recycle bio-plastics.


  • Are your consumers willing to compost their bio-plastics? If you answered yes, then biodegradable shrink films are a better choice for your business. Bio-plastics can easily be composted in-home or industrial composting areas.


  • Are you trying to keep costs as low as possible? If you answered yes, you would want to stick with traditional plastic films as bio-based alternatives are currently the more costly option.


  • Is environmental friendliness important to your brand image? If you answered yes, you would want to switch to bio-based shrink films. Many consumers demand that companies stop using plastics, regardless of the complicated truths about bio-based alternatives.


Which Film Is Right For You? 


That is entirely based upon the unique combination of your packaging, products, and consumer base. It would be well advised to have a packaging expert analyze your current packaging practices, products, and consumer expectations. They will be able to help you identify the best film for your specific needs.


If you still have more questions about shrink film and sustainability, feel free to reach out to one of our packaging experts. They will assist you in finding the right shrink films and vendors for your packaging applications. We can help you to purchase the appropriate materials even if you do not buy them through 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.