Understanding the Differences Between Polyolefin Packaging Films

09 December 2021 //


Polyolefin films serve an essential role in the packaging and distribution of products. Three commonly used packaging films are decorative high-clarity shrink wrap, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and high-density polyethylene. Understanding the differences in the films’ properties and uses will help you determine which one fits your product needs best.

Decorative High-Clarity Shrink Wrap

Decorative high-clarity shrink wrap is most often used when the product requires a shelf presence. The film’s biaxial shrink properties, or its ability to shrink equally in all directions, enable you to create wrinkle-free, aesthetically pleasing, shiny packages. Products that use decorative high-clarity shrink wrap include facial tissue multi-packs, frozen pizza, and perfume boxes.

The film’s high level of shrink energy:

  • Creates a tight cast of film around the product
  • Makes it a good choice for individual or unitized products that need protective barriers or tamper evidence seals
  • Provides a film that’s thin enough for consumers to open quickly and easily

There are two significant downsides to decorative high-clarity shrink wrap:

  • It is more costly as compared to other films
  • It tends to shift during transportation due to a low coefficient of friction, making product stacking or palletizing difficult

Low-Density Polyethylene

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) has a looser, branching polymer chain structure, giving it a lower density than other plastics. It’s typically used in lightweight, flexible, and transparent packaging applications, such as for plastic bags, plastic film, and injection molding. Using LDPE wrapping can shrink bundle products together for distribution or wrap items to minimize the potential damage caused by handling. It has a melting point of 239 degrees Fahrenheit (115 degrees Celsius), is waterproof, provides electrical insulation, and is resistant to both acids and bases.

LDPE film is removed in most bundling packaging applications before products are placed on retail shelves, as with multiple sticks of deodorant or trays of canned goods. However, the LDPE film occasionally serves as primary packaging for various single products like windows, shutters, and some rugs.

Because of its durability and versatility, LDPE shrink packaging applications are used in many industries:

Using LPDE film for shrink packaging applications offers several advantages:

  • Stability for unsupported and bundled products, as well as those in trays or on pads
  • Low cost and recyclable under recycling number four, making it a sustainable option for many manufacturers
  • A coefficient of friction that helps the film form to the product’s shape and holds it in place during stacking or stretch wrapping
  • Less packaging is required, reducing waste and effort required to break down packaging once it has arrived at its location.
  • Reduced shipping costs due to the lightweight material and increased pallet density with packaging applications like EDL’s Double-Tight Wrap Shrink Bundler
  • A range of film blends and thicknesses, including the potential to use additives for fog resistance, design printing, or to give a glossy appearance

High-Density Polyethylene

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) has a crystalline structure with tightly packed molecules. This material’s polymer structure makes it durable and a popular choice for rigid packaging containers. It also has greater resistance to chemicals and extreme temperature conditions, with a melting point of 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius). Like LDPE, HDPE is waterproof, low cost, and lightweight. You can also recycle HDPE under recycling number two.

Popular uses for HDPE include:

  • Durable, tear-resistant packaging
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Plumbing pipes and hoses
  • Toys and playground structures
  • Car fuel tank and body manufacturing
  • Plastic bottles
  • Underground electrical cables
  • 3D printing filaments

Durable Packaging Solutions From EDL Packaging

Polyolefin packaging films provide distinct advantages, and being aware of the key differences between various options will help you determine which one offers the most significant benefit for your application. EDL Packaging offers a variety of product packaging solutions for a range of industriesContact EDL to discuss your product, market needs, distribution methods, and packaging goals.