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Should I use PVC or Polyolefin film to shrink wrap my products?

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Many industries from food processing to retail use shrink wrap packaging to package their products.  These businesses benefit from shrink wrapping due to the versatility, strength and low cost of shrink wrap film.  Products can be bound together in a single unit reducing costs associated with space, materials, shipping and handling.  Shrink wrapping also enhances product appearance and image, and helps sell the items.

There are several different types of shrink wrap film available and confused business owners often seek answers to the following questions: 

  • Should I use PVC or Polyolefin film to shrink wrap my products? 
  • What is the difference between the two?
  • Is one better than the other?

The first thing to consider when selecting your packaging material is to analyze what you will be packaging.  The two most common types of shrink wrap film used today are PVC and Polyolefin film.  PVC film used to be the film of choice.  It was inexpensive and widely available.  Polyolefin film has grown in popularity over the past few years and is now quite commonly used.

PVC film requires a slightly lower shrink temperature to shrink than Polyolefin does.  It is however, more brittle than Polyolefin film and may not produce a good result when shrink wrapping multiple products.  PVC film hardens in cold conditions and softens under hot conditions, therefore compromising the strength of the seal and the plastic.  PVC film is also not considered safe for use with food products.  It also emits an odour that some may find irritating if used indoors.  It is always recommended to use PVC film in well ventilated rooms.

Polyolefin film is very popular for use with food products, gift baskets, bundling multiple products and more.  Polyolefin film is more pliable than PVC and does not tear easily resulting in a stronger seal and more flexible storage.  Polyolefin emits little odour and is fine for use indoors. As mentioned before, polyolefin is perfectly safe to use with food.

Most shrink wrap machines are capable of using both PVC and Polyolefin film.  PVC film shrinks slightly easier than Polyolefin. Both Polyolefin and PVC film can be shrunk using a heat tunnel or a heat gun.

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