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Shrink Wrap Showdown: PVC vs. Polyolefin

Posted by TigerPak on 4/24/2020
Shrink Wrap Showdown: PVC vs. Polyolefin

Each year, America uses about 141 million tons of plastic packaging. This may sound like a horrifying statistic at first, but it's actually a good thing. Not only does shrink wrap benefit shipping workers in pretty much every industry, but it also is reusable and recyclable.

However, when it comes to choosing what kind of shrink wrap you need for your company or shipping plant, you're going to need to be smart and do your research.

Today, we're going to talk about the difference between PVC and polyolefin shrink wrap. While neither of these types of plastic is inherently better than the other, different companies that have different values and needs are sure to prefer one over the other. Read on so that you can make an informed choice as to which type of shrink wrap will better suit your needs!


What Is Shrink Wrap?

Even if you don't know the term, we promise you've seen shrink wrap before!

Simply put, shrink wrap is a thin piece of plastic that can fit around the product as a coating. This is especially helpful in shipping items that you don't want to become scratched or dented. Shrink wrap is also generally what books and files come in when mailed to you.

Generally, there are three types of wrap that can coat items. One of these is tape, which there isn't much to say on- it's a paper and poly adhesive that goes around boxes and seals them up.

Shrink wrap is another type of packaging, and it is placed around products with a sealing machine and a heat gun. Generally, this is made from PVC. However, another kind of shrink wrap is called stretch wrap, and it's made of polyolefin. This wrapping is made specifically for pallet wrapping and can be placed around an item either by machine or by hand. Going forward, shrink and stretch wrapping are the types of wrapping that we're going to discuss.


How Does PVC Wrap Work?

Now that you know the general run-down on what shrink wrap is, it's time to look into one of the most popular materials that it can be made from: PVC. Read on to learn about PVC shrink wrap, the pros and cons of using it, and the best applications for this material!

  • The Basics

Simply put, PVC shrink wrap is a thin piece of plastic that can fit around the product as a coating. It's the shrink wrap that you're probably most familiar with because most DVDs, books, and software boxes are packaged using it.

This coating is especially helpful in shipping items that you don't want to become scratched or dented. Because this wrapping is placed onto products by a machine, it will be even all the way around. You'll need to tear it open by yourself.

  • Pros and Cons

As with any material, PVC shrink wrap comes with its specific pros and cons.

Some of the best things about PVC shrink wrap are as follows:

  • PVC is by far the least expensive option for shrink wrapping.
  • PVC shrink wrap is more brittle than its polyolefin counterpart, which makes it easier to open packaging after it is in the hands of the consumer.

On the other hand, these are the weaknesses of PVC as a shrink wrap material:

  • While the brittleness of PVC makes it easy to open, it can be problematic when you're trying to shrink-wrap multiple products together. This is especially the case when the items are of different shapes or sizes. The PVC packaging is likely to break open in these situations.
  • PVC film is not safe to use with food, drugs, or other items that can be consumed.

Uses and Applications

Because it's cheaper than polyolefin, you're going to want to use PVC whenever possible.

PVC should be used when you're wrapping up one item and one item only. You can also use it to wrap up multiple items that are the exact same size and shape, like a 2 DVD set. Make sure that there are no large spaces between parts of the item that you're wrapping up- the entire thing should be solid all the way around. Every groove in the item provides PVC shrink wrap with the opportunity to snag on something and tear.

For this reason, PVC is especially good for use with smaller blunted items. You may not want to wrap a giant box up in it, or it's going to rupture on the sharp corners.


How Is Polyolefin Any Different?

While PVC is incredibly useful for many applications, polyolefin is just as, if not more useful, in other situations. Read on to learn what this material is and the benefits of using polyolefin in your commercial shrink wrap system.

  • The Basics

Polyolefin is another material that can be used to shrink wrap items. It's also known as stretch wrap since it's a much more stretchy material. Like PVC, it can be fitted over items with a heat shrink gun or a heat tunnel. If you want to wrap an item by hand, though, you'll need to use polyolefin because it's capable of sticking to itself. PVC does not have this property.

  • Pros and Cons

Just like PVC, polyolefin shrink wrap comes with both upsides and downsides.

Some of the main advantages of polyolefin shrink wrap are:

  • Polyolefin shrink wrap is stretchier than its PVC counterpart. This makes it far less likely to rupture.
  • This type of wrapping can be applied to items by hand in addition to by machine- it's more versatile.

Conversely, here are a few cons of polyolefin:

  • Polyolefin is more expensive than PVC is, so it may not work for those on a budget.
  • Polyolefin is more difficult to break open, which is awesome during shipping but frustrating when you're trying to open it.

Uses and Applications

Polyolefin shrink wrap needs to be used when shrink-wrapping items that have sharper corners or are simply larger. It won't tear or snag on the item this way. It's also the material that must be used when wrapping multiple items or bulk quantities of things since it won't tear in the spaces or grooves between items.

You also must use polyolefin when wrapping food because it's not toxic like PVC is.


Get Shrink Wrap Film Today

While neither PVC or polyolefin is a superior material to the other, each has pros and cons that matter in varying degrees for different applications and industries.

Now that you know the differences between PVC and polyolefin shrink wrap, it's time to start looking for whichever alternative you determine is best for you. Click here to contact us and get some pointers as to how to go about buying shrink wrap. We'll tell you what you need to purchase and in what quantities in order for your business or industrial plant to run as efficiently and productively as possible.