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Why Should You Stop Using Shrink Wrapping Machine

Shrink-wrapping is polymer-based plastic packaging widely used in all ranges of sectors for either primary packaging, secondary packaging, or tertiary packaging.

The term shrink wrapping machine may refer to secondary packaging equipment that can apply plastic film over an object and then apply heat to the film to shrink it to fit the object’s shape tightly. Shrink-wrapping is also used as primary packaging that has direct contact with the food ingredients to keep it fresh and free from dirt and dust. Shrink-wrapping is also popular for multipacking in the sector of drinks and beverages due to its flexible feature to fit the objects regardless of their shapes and sizes.

shrink wrapping machine
A Typical Shrink Wrapper

Credit: Open Source Drawings

Despite their wide application and popularity, official authorities and governments are already imposing regulations and restrictions on the use of plastics in packaging and thus leading to a subsequent impact on the reduced use of shrink-wrapping.

In this article, we will shed light on the recent trends of:

  • why people are giving up plastic packaging and shrink-wrapping?
  • the disadvantages of shrink wrapping and why you should not use shrink wrapping machines?
  • what are the alternatives to shrink-wrapping?

What are the Reasons for the Reduced Use of Shrink Wrapping?

One of the primary causes is the official regulations that intended to control the consumption of Single-Use Plastics.

The EU Directive 2019/904, referred to as the “Single-Use Plastics Directive”, for example, is legislation aimed at reducing the impact of certain single-use plastic products on the environment. The directive targets items such as plastic cutlery, plates, straws, cotton buds, and plastic beverage containers. Regarding shrink wrapping, which is a plastic packaging technique, the directive indirectly affects it through its broader goals of reducing plastic waste and promoting a circular economy. Shrink wrapping involves the use of thin plastic film to tightly enclose and protect products during transportation or storage.

Credit: European Bioplastics

As suggested by U.S. Packaging & Wrapping LLC., shrink wrapping applies the following materials for packaging:
  • Polyolefin
  • PVC
  • Polyethylene
  • Polypropylene

Each of them may have a different impact on either the environment or concerns around safety and health depending on the industries in which they are used.

Shrink wrap and overwrap
Recommended Reading: Shrink Wrap vs. Overwrap: Find out the Difference


What are Shrink Wrapping Machines?

Shrink wrapping machines are automated packaging machines used to wrap a variety of products using shrink film or shrink wrap. These machines are designed to streamline and speed up the packaging process, providing a secure and professional-looking wrap for products. A shrink-wrapping machine is a packaging equipment that consists of various sections including:

  • An index conveyor
  • The film feed system and loading reel
  • Cutting mechanism
  • Shrink tunnel
  • and optionally a cooling zone

What are the Disadvantages of Shrink Wrapping Machines?

Despite the flexibility that shrink wrapping offers thanks to which it can fit all ranges of products regardless of their shapes, the use of shrink wrapping machines may bring bunches of disadvantages around sustainability, environmental concerns, food safety compliance, pollution, safety, and so forth.

Environmental impact due to the use of plastics

The plastics used for shrink wrapping may vary in the nature of recyclability. Yet, admittedly not all those who use such a machine will opt for biodegradable plastics due to concerns of packaging costs. Plastic film and residual derived from shrink wrapping, if not disposed of properly, can end up in landfills or as litter in the environment, taking hundreds of years to decompose. This can have detrimental effects on ecosystems, wildlife, and human health.

Energy consumption

Compared to overwrap packaging that does not require much heat, the shrink tunnel that heats the film to shrink is the primary section of the machine that consumes the majority of energy. This energy consumption contributes to carbon emissions and environmental impact, particularly if the energy source is not renewable or sustainable.

Safety concerns

The shrink tunnel is a typical hazardous mechanical structure due to the extreme heat it generates. With regard to the plastics to be applied, the shrink tunnel may be set with a temperature between 120°C (248°F) to 200°C (392°F). The high temperatures inside the tunnel pose a burn risk to operators if they come into contact with the hot surfaces or the heated air. Proper training and adherence to safe operating procedures, such as wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and maintaining a safe distance from the tunnel during operation, are essential to prevent burns.

What are the Alternatives to Shrink-Wrapping?

Especially in the drinks and beverages industry, the drinks and beverage companies are switching to paper as their new form of packaging while on the other hand packaging automation companies are also digging into the potential of innovative cardboard packaging.

Basket beverage packaging
Credit: Graphic Packaging International

A typical innovative sustainable alternative to shrink wrapping for drinks and beverages is the beverage cardboard packaging that comes in various shapes and styles thanks to the innovations by Westrock and Graphic Packaging International.

  • Another approach is to minimalize the plastics used with the packaging, for example, the plastic ring.

The plastic ring for beverage packaging, commonly known as a six-pack ring or six-pack holder, is a plastic packaging component used to hold multiple beverage cans or bottles together – a typical packaging designed to securely hold the cans or bottles in a grouped formation, making it easier to transport and display them in stores.


What to Do with My Existing Shrink Wrappers?

Even though we have listed various disadvantages of shrink-wrapping and shrink-wrapping machines, it does not make sense that we should throw the shrink-wrappers in your facility immediately to a rubbish dump.

But as for some suggestions:

  • Halt the purchase of shrink wrappers afterward with regard to expanding your productivity
  • Switch to the use of biodegradable plastics to meet your current existing demand for shrink wrapping packaging
  • Consider more sustainable packaging for your new product lines and avoid the use of shrink wrapping in the future
  • Gradually reduce the use of plastic shrink packaging and shift to its alternatives
About the Authors

Zixin Yuan
Digital Marketing Coordinator
Zixin Yuan - LinkedIn

Zhiwei Bao
Company Owner
Zhiwei Bao - LinkedIn

About the Company
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery Co., Ltd
No.1088, Jing Ye Rd, Economic Development Zone, Dong Shan District, Ruian Wenzhou Zhejiang, China 325200
+86 (0577) 6668 2128
ÉLITER Packaging Machinery