5 ways to reduce the cost and environmental impact of your stretch wrap

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Stretch pallet wrap, also known as stretch film, stretch wrap or sometimes shrink film, is a versatile packaging material primarily used for securing and stabilising loads on pallets during transportation and storage.

Typically made from linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) it is highly stretchable, which means it conforms tightly to the shape of your palletised load, ensuring that it is stable in transit and storage.

Pallet wrap plays a vital role in the transportation and storage of palletised goods but, many companies are keen to reduce their use of the material, for both environmental and cost reasons. 

If you are using pallet wrap, there are lots of opportunities to use less of it, in this blog we’ll show you 5 ways to reduce your stretch wrap use. We will cover:

stretch wrap

What is pallet stretch wrap used for?

Stretch wrap is an essential component for palletising goods. The key advantage of pallet wrap is that it prevents your products from shifting, tipping, or falling during transit. It helps to maintain the integrity of the load and reduces the risk of damage or loss.

It also provides a protective barrier around palletised goods, shielding them from dust, dirt, moisture, and other environmental factors that could potentially damage or contaminate products.

Stretch wrap enhances packaging efficiency as it creates a single, cohesive unit or load, making it easier to handle, transport, and store. This process, known as unitisation, improves efficiency and reduces the risk of lost or misplaced items.

stretch wrap

How is stretch wrap applied?

Stretch wrap can be applied by either hand or machine, the application type really does depend on what quantity of pallets you are wrapping each day.

Hand application – this is when stretch film is manually applied by hand, which can be done with or without a hand dispenser. All hand-applied stretch films are supplied on standard cores for use with hand-applied applicators or extended cores. 

If you are applying stretch film by hand, it’s important to consider any health and safety risks associated with hand film application, like the weight of the film and the impact of stretching and pulling on the operator.

Machine application – this is when stretch film is applied to a pallet or product using a pallet wrapper, a machine that automatically winds film round a products on a pallet.

A pallet wrapper is recommended if you are wrapping more than 15 pallets per day. 

Machine applied stretch films are extremely strong and versatile, which saves time, resources and packaging materials for high performance applications requiring higher tensile strengths. These films have excellent puncture resistance, good cling, slip and load retention.

stretch wrap

What is the environmental impact of pallet wrap?

Pallet wrap is made from linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE).  As with the production of many plastics, it consumes resources such as fossil fuels and water and has a high CO2 impact in the manufacturing process.

Excessive application of film, or overuse, can be wasteful which also has a negative impact on the environment.  To ensure load stability, operators can apply too much film by either doing too many wraps or, not applying the correct level of stretch or tension to the film. This could be down to inadequate training or inexperience.

Over application of stretch wrap can also happen with machine applied films too.  it’s important to check that the machine settings are correct for the type of stretch wrap you are using.

By using less wrap, fewer resources are consumed, helping to conserve natural resources and reduce the carbon footprint associated with the manufacturing process and material waste.

pallet wrap

How can you use less pallet wrap?

We’ve come up with 5 ways to help you use less stretch wrap:

1. Select the best film for your business

When selecting the right pallet wrap for your business, there are two main areas of consideration:

Stretch wrap performance – Selecting a stretch film that provides the right yield strength and performance for the loads being wrapped is crucial. The yield strength denotes the amount of stress a stretch film can withstand without permanently having plastic deformation. Prior to reaching the yield point, a stretch film will elastically deform but will return to its original shape once the stress is removed

The make-up of the products being wrapped – Consider the products being wrapped and look at your weight load (typically per pallet), load profile type, and the transit process the load will experience.

Load profiles can be summarised by three key types:

2. Change the micron of your stretch wrap

If you can reduce the micron of your stretch wrap to a thinner material, you should be able to reduce your overall use of stretch wrap – reducing your impact on the environment as well as material cost.

Advances in technology of stretch wrap manufacturing has given us a new breed of “High performance” stretch film, it  has a much lower material thickness (micron) than traditional heavier film but provides the same, or higher, levels of performance.

High performance pallet wrap provides businesses with an opportunity to wrap more pallets with less film, whilst maintaining high levels of load containment. This can provide businesses with a reduction in material cost and wrapping times, as well as reducing material use and waste.

3. Switch to a recycled content stretch wrap

As explained earlier, stretch wrap does require the use of fossil fuels, which means that the manufacturing process has a high co2 impact.

By switching to a recycled content stretch film, you are not only reducing the use of fossil fuels, but also ensuring that waste material is recycled for reuse, driving a “circle of life” for plastic materials.

Whilst 100% recycled content film is not yet available, both hand and machine applied pallet wrap is available in a minimum of 30% recycled content. 

If you are currently using a virgin film, a switch to recycled content will also reduce your material cost, as a Plastic Packaging Tax of £ 217.85 per tonne is applied to any plastic packaging which does not contain a minimum of 30% recycled content.

4. Use a pre-stretch hand applicator

If you are applying film by hand, consider the type of stretch wrap applicator that you are using as well as safety precautions when using pallet wrap.

A basic hand stretch dispenser simply holds the roll in place whilst the operator walks around the pallet to apply the film.  Film application is reliant on the operator applying a consistent level of tension by pulling the applicator as the film is applied.  Not only can this lead to operator injury, it can also mean that the pallet wrap isn’t stretched to capacity.  This leads to overuse of film, and a higher cost to wrap each pallet.

Consider investing in an applicator with pre-stretch gears, like Wrapplicator, which applies pallet wrap with a consistent 30% stretch. It’s ergonomic design ensures that the stretch wrap can be applied single handedly, without bending or pulling, reducing the risk of operator injury.

Whilst a dispenser like Wrapplicator costs more than a standard dispenser, it will pay for itself quickly by maximising material use and removing incidences of over stretching or snapping film which can slow down the time taken to wrap each pallet – reducing material and labour cost.  It’s ease of use also means that no matter which operator wraps the pallet, you’ll always get the same result.

5. Automate the process

If you are wrapping 15 or more pallets per day, it’s time to invest in a pallet wrapping machine.

An stretch wrap machine optimises film use through advanced technology and precise film application. They calculate the exact amount of film required based on the pallet dimensions, resulting in reduced film use. Many systems have film pre-stretching capabilities, stretching the film prior to application, further reducing the amount of stretch wrap film needed, along with the cost to wrap each pallet.

A stretch wrap machine can typically pay for itself through material savings, within a few months, depending on the amount of pallets being wrapped.

A benefit of introducing a pallet wrap machine is that it can handle a high volume of pallets in a shorter period, reducing the time required for manual labour and enabling workers to focus on other value-added tasks. Once a pallet is placed onto a pallet wrapper turntable, the operator is able to prepare the next pallet ready for wrapping.

stretch wrap

How Macfarlane Packaging can help to reduce your stretch wrap use

With a wide range of recycled content stretch wrap, for both hand and machine application, and pallet wrapping machines, Macfarlane Packaging can help you to identify the right film and automation system.

Our specialist load containment team are on hand to conduct a free of charge stretch wrap review, identifying ways for you to improve your pallet wrapping and reduce material use and cost.  Often, a stretch wrap review can reduce film use by 50%.

We’ve a new range of machine stretch films, starting at 10 micron and containing 30% recycled content available with up to 300% stretch, including black pallet wrap.   Our new hand stretch dispenser, the Wrapplicator, will also reduce your cost to hand wrap each pallet.

Contact us today to find out more.