Stretch Film

The complications of plastic in stretch wrap & what can be done

5 mins

The environmental effects of plastics is a never ending topic, and it’s clear why. Every year, up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic escape landfills, float down drains and end up in our rivers and oceans, polluting our planet and harming wildlife.

Generally, we can point our finger at single-use plastics, but we must also look at how we deal with all types of plastic waste at end of life, the plastic products we use, as well as adopting alternatives.

As you’re probably aware, packaging contributes massively to the production of plastics. In fact, packaging is the largest end-use market segment accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage - and stretch wrap plays a big part in this.

Being key contributors to the industry, and as a Certified B Corporation at Swiftpak, we understand the impact of plastic and aim to make a difference. So, as one of the most used packaging products globally, we explore the complications of recycled plastic in stretch wrap and what can be done to minimise its environmental impact.

What actually is plastic?

The word ‘plastic’ refers to any material that is easy to shape during manufacturing, hence why we name plastics after their main characteristic. They are made from polymers, which are long chains of carbon or hydrogen atoms.

Although organic in origin, plastics are man-made. Their polymers are combined and arranged in ways that would never occur naturally. This is the reason plastic bags won’t biodegrade in the same way paper bags do.

So, can plastics be recycled?

Recycling any material is fundamental to the environment, which is why it’s important to know if plastics can be recycled, and if so, which types and how. Unfortunately, plastic doesn’t suit all eco-friendly disposal solutions, and not all plastic is widely recycled.

However, due to environmental legislation and developments in recycling methods, some plastic types can be recycled. The most common include:

  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) – e.g water bottles and plastic trays
  • High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) – e.g milk cartons and shampoo bottles
  • Polypropylene (PP) – e.g ready-meal trays and margarine tubs

Which plastics cannot be recycled?

Although select plastics can be recycled fairly easily, the majority aren’t recycled simply because they aren’t easily recyclable.

The difference in the recyclability of plastic types can be down to how they are made. For instance, thermoset plastic contains polymers that form irreversible chemical bonds that cannot be recycled. This includes several day-to-day plastics such as films, blister packaging and stretch wrap.

So, now that we’ve covered why many stretch wrap products, along with other plastics, aren’t widely recycled, let’s take a look at what can be done to minimise its impact.

Choosing a sustainable stretch wrap

At Swiftpak, we’re continuously looking for ways to help our customers meet their environmental goals through packaging, and our website offers a fantastic platform to help.

With our recently launched Stretch Wrap Calculator, you can find out exactly how much plastic you’re using, and how much you could save as a business. Simply enter your existing stretch wrap details following the questions on screen, and we’ll let you know how your business could produce up to 74% less waste with MWrap - our machine applied stretch wrap made from 21% recycled materials. It uses the latest technology in film production for a stronger yet thinner film.

30% plastic packaging tax 2022

Taking effect as of April 2022 a packaging tax will apply to manufacturers, importers, sellers, and consumers of packaging with more than 30% plastic material. Why? The Government are looking to provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled material in the manufacturing of plastic packaging. In turn, this will stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration.

So, what does the 30% plastic packaging tax mean for your stretch wrap?

As a business, you may think finding a stretch wrap with 30% or higher recycled content is an absolute must before April 2022 in order to avoid the ta x and save on costs. However, there is another side to this that must be considered.

Although using a stretch wrap which contains at least 30% recycled content will save you from the tax hammer, it might not be worth it in the long run. Why’s this the case? Let’s explain.

A stretch wrap containing over 30% recycled content is likely to be thicker than more conventional wraps, as well as harder to stretch. Compare this to our 21% recycled Mwrap, which provides a stronger, thinner and more flexible solution, so you may end up having to use more of the 30% recycled wrap for the same application - The bottom line is, more plastic is likely to be used, and you’ll end up having to purchase more stretch wrap. Is the plastic tax even worth avoiding? Probably not in this circumstance, but we’ll let you decide.

Looking for stretch wrap? Contact our expert team for information on our stretch wrap products today  – we’re more than happy to help with your stretch wrap queries.