What Are the Disadvantages of Shrink Wrapping?
We recently wrote a post about the advantages of shrink wrapping and how the process can reduce product loss, provide an affordable yet professional look, and protect products during shipping and storage. To objectively look at shrink wrapping, we have followed up with the disadvantages of shrink wrap packaging.
It is important to emphasize we are explicitly talking about heat shrink packaging. Pallet stretch film can also be referenced as shrink wrap and would be a different application than what we are detailing in this post. Heat shrink wrapping is found on products in stores everywhere. It is one of many forms of packaging, though. Many other options may be better suited for your application and wrapped item. Please view some of the disadvantages to shrink wrapping below.
Not Thick Enough
Marine shrink wrap can be as thick as 20 mils. It is used to wrap boats and other large industrial products. Rarely is this kind of shrink wrap not durable enough, but transparent shrink wrap film may need to be thicker for packaging. Even two or three mil thick shrink bundling film made from polyethylene may not be thick enough for some products. Usually, these are large products or bundles of products, possibly with sharp edges. A rigid packaging may better protect these more oversized and awkward products.
Even if your products are not oversized and bulky, we have often seen retail shrink wrapping not thick enough to handle transport stress. Packaging heavy bars of metals and stacking for transport can cause the bars to easily shred through a one or two mil thick shrink wrap. Another example of shrink wrap not being thick enough can be shrink wrap on the exterior of some shipping packages. According to the USPS, shrink wrap materials should be at least 75 gauge thickness for exterior packaging. This requirement is for lightweight products under three pounds; an external corrugated box can often be a better option for protection.
Not Rigid Enough
For delicate products, there may be better materials than flexible packaging. Rigid materials such as clamshell, blister, or tray packaging may better protect the wrapped product. Each packaging option fully encloses the product to prevent tampering but also helps protect it from any potential impact. Of course, each of these mentioned options also comes with its own set of drawbacks.
Not Air Tight
Aside from barrier shrink bags for meat, cheese, and poultry, most heat shrink wrap does not have oxygen barrier properties. Centerfold PVC or polyolefin heat shrink wrap for retail and food packaging is not airtight. Before the material is shrunk to conform to the product, small holes are placed in the film to allow air to escape when heated. Without the holes, the shrink material traps air and balloons after applying heat.
For some, enclosing products in barrier packaging is essential for distribution. Most consumable products fair better off and last longer inside barrier packaging. Other products need air-tight packaging for protection from moisture, or air may cause the product to rust or degrade. If that is the desire, there may be better packaging options than shrink wrapping.
Not Efficient Enough
Automatic shrink wrap machines can package 30 products or more per minute; with that speed comes an inflated price tag. For new product rollouts or start-up companies, beginner shrink wrap equipment can take over two minutes per product, depending on the product size. The cost to speed up efficiency may not be justified with a specific project. Other packaging options, such as lip tape or reclosable poly bags may be a faster solution while ensuring quality products reach customers.
It Costs Too Much to Print On
Cost-effective, branded packaging can be achieved with a transparent shrink film and printed labels. Labels need to be applied with an applicator or manually, but packaging costs can be minimal. Sometimes, with larger products, higher quantities, or manufacturer’s preferences, labels will not work. Printed material is required. Printed shrink wrap is common and found in stores all over. Most printed shrink wrap requires high minimums and substantial upfront costs compared to other printed packaging materials.
Shrink wrap, made from various polymers, is not from sustainable materials. It is thin but is considered a single-use plastic. Over the years, advancements have been made for lighter yet more durable materials. These advancements toward superior film quality have reduced consumption and waste but still fall short. In recent years, additives have become popular, which causes polymer materials to biodegrade if discarded into natural elements. As of now, there is yet to be a fully sustainable shrink packaging solution that will provide a stable shelf life and look presentable. Other sustainable options may be better suited for the product and customer base.
Heat shrink wrapping has numerous uses and applications. Aside from a thick industrial or marine shrink wrap, packaging shrink wraps may sometimes not be thick enough, strong enough, or provide enough protection to package certain products. If you are considering a packaging option for your company or a specific product, we would like to provide samples to assist with your search. Contact us at 1-800-441-5090 and allow us to test your products to find the best packaging solution possible.