A guide to polythene and shrink film

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In the world of packaging, versatility and durability are key factors.

Polythene and shrink film have become indispensable materials for packaging companies in both retail and industrial sectors. Understanding these materials is crucial for businesses seeking cost-effective, and robust packaging solutions.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the world of polythene packaging and shrink film, exploring their uses, benefits, and what makes shrink film a valuable choice.


What is polythene?

Polythene plastic is the most widely used plastic in the world. It is part of the polyolefin family of plastic resins. It is made primarily from ethylene, a type of hydrocarbon. It comes in various forms, including low-density polythene (LDPE), high-density polythene (HDPE), and low-density polythene (LLDPE), each offering unique characteristics suitable for different applications.

You’ll find low density polyethylene (LDPE) is commonly found in many packaging products, such as carrier bags and stretch film, as well as bubble wrap.

What is shrink film?

Shrink film / wrap is a type of plastic packaging material that shrinks when heat is applied. You’ll find that shrink wrap can be made from polythene, as well as other plastics such as polyolefin. It’s commonly used for packaging, presentation, and tamper resistance in both retail and industrial settings.

polythene packaging guide

Types of polythene packaging products

Polythene is a versatile packaging product used throughout the packing process. To give you an idea of the range of products available, we have listed some of the most popular polythene packaging commonly used in retail and industrial sectors:

  • Layflat Polythene Tubing – An amazingly simple, yet highly effective, budget packing solution with broad flexibility, for protecting long length items such as piping, tubing and wooden mouldings.
  • Pallet Top Sheets – These sheets designed to protect stretch-wrapped pallets from wet weather and dust during transit and in storage. A warehouse essential, these tough-wearing sheets are supplied on a perforated roll for easy separation and handling.
  • Polythene LDPE Centrefold Shrinkable Film – LDPE shrink wrap films keep products and pallets dust, dirt and water free during transit and in storage.
  • Polyolefin Shrink Wrap Films – Polyolefin shrink film is not as corrosive as PVC shrink film and has a higher yield and clarity. It is also stronger, more flexible and can withstand lower storage temperatures.
polythene packaging guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we have listed some popular questions about polythene packaging and shrink wrap, but if you have any more queries that are not listed, our team of experts will be happy to help you.

Can polythene packaging and plastic packaging be recycled?

Many people are confused about what types of materials can be recycled. While some items, such as paper and glass, can be easily recycled, others, such as polyethylene, are more difficult to recycle.

So, is polyethylene recyclable? The answer is yes and no. While pure polyethylene can be recycled, most polyethylene products are made with a mix of materials that make them difficult to recycle. However, there are some companies that are working on ways to recycle mixed materials.

Many materials made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE), such as carrier bags, can be recycled at supermarkets but rarely at kerbside. It is always worth checking packaging to see if it carries an On-Pack Recycling Label or visiting Recycle Now to see where you can recycle it.

Are shrink wrap and stretch wrap the same?

Stretch wrap and shrink wrap are both commonly used packaging materials, but they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics. Here are the key differences between stretch wrap and shrink wrap:

  • Stretch wrap is primarily used to secure and stabilize loads on pallets during transportation and storage. It is manually or machine-applied, and the stretching process allows it to tightly hold items in place. It provides load stability and protection against dust and moisture but does not change its shape or size.
  • Shrink wrap is used to encase and bundle products or items for various purposes, such as packaging, tamper resistance, and product presentation. When heat is applied, shrink film contracts tightly around the items, conforming to their shape.

The choice between them depends on the specific packaging needs of a given product or situation!

What are the different types of polyethene packaging?

At Macfarlane, we can offer you an extensive range of polyethene packaging materials. This includes:

  • Layflat Polythene Tubing
  • Pallet Top Sheets
  • Centrefold Polythene Sheets
  • Polythene LDPE Centrefold Shrinkable Film
  • Shrink Wrap Pallet Covers
  • VCI Polythene (Anti-Corrosion Polythene Packaging)
  • Shrink Wrap and Shrink Film

We can also offer packaging machinery and accessories associated with polythene, such as heat sealers and guns, shrink machines, and dispensers.

Macfarlane Packaging can also provide stretch film. Click here to learn more.

Are there automated polythene packaging solutions?

Yes, when you’re ready to level up, Macfarlane Packaging can supply you with any sort of packaging automation solution you need. This includes packing machinery like heat tunnels and shrink tunnels.

A wide range of semi and fully automated pack solutions are available to speed up your packing operation regarding polythene. For example, heat shrink tunnel systems can reduce material waste and maximise packaging yield.

The Macfarlane team can also help with polythene banding machines, which are perfect for bundling products together.