Shipping damage is costly. It disappoints consumers. It takes money from your profit. It also wastes your time, by doubling your logistical effort, and potentially harms your brand.
To secure your merchandise for shipping, you should seriously consider the versatile and ever-reliable stretch wrap.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the importance of online marketing, consequently augmenting the demand for more secure packaging. As an entrepreneur, you certainly wouldn’t want to miss that huge market that is now mainly counting on door-to-door deliveries for almost every need.
There are many stretch wrap buying guides online, but this one is intended for small business owners who want sufficient information in a language decluttered of unexplained jargon.
What is stretch wrap?
Stretch wrap is a very elastic plastic film used for covering or binding items together. It is most commonly made from linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) resins, which are artificially obtained from petrochemicals.
Simply put, this plastic is a relative of gasoline, but the synthetic process creates a stable material that is generally safe to use.
Stretch wrap is widely used for packaging because of its convenience, non-toxicity and stability.
Is stretch wrap recyclable?
This is a valid concern, especially if your business has gone green, so it’s worth discussing in this blog.
Yes, stretch wrap can be recycled. Recycling programs, such as that implemented by AAA Polymer in New York, exist in many parts of the country to assist green businesses. Reusing elastic films does not only help the environment but also saves money.
However, plastic wrap recycling takes some effort as most plants require large volumes before accepting materials for processing.
When should I use stretch wrap?
You can use stretch wrap when you need to do the following:
Protect your products from dust, dirt and moisture
Intact stretch film is impenetrable to substances that can ruin your products’ quality.
Shield your goods from ultraviolet (UV) rays, e. g. from sun exposure
Invisible rays coming from the sun can cause skin cancer. They can likewise release light-sensitive particles that can spoil food, cosmetics and a host of other consumables. Specially made stretch wrap can protect your products from the sun’s harmful effects.
Extend the shelf-life of perishable goods
To stabilize stacks of packages
Stretch wrap can bind and stabilize multiple stacks of boxes, letting you securely ship goods in large volumes.
The boxes in this picture are placed on top of wooden pallets and “unitized,” or secured as a unit, by stretch film.
For tamper-proofing and safeguarding against package theft
American businesses lose $30 billion yearly from cargo pilferage. Opaque stretch plastics prevent thieves from seeing the contents of your shipment, making it hard for them to steal your goods. Evidence of tampering is also easy to spot on torn opaque and colored film wrap.
What are the advantages of using stretch wrap?
Compared to other palletizing materials, such as shrink-wrapping and strapping, stretch plastics are superior in terms of:
Level of protection for palletized goods
Stretch wrap is more dependable due to its wide coverage, elasticity, toughness and tamper-proofing properties.
Stretch wrap is easy to use, whether by hand or machine, letting you save time. Transparent variants allow for easy optical scanning and identification, enabling fast cargo transfer.
Elastic film wrap is clingy but does not leave behind any messy adhesive residue when peeled off.
Stretch plastics let you save costs as they can be applied by hand or energy-efficient machines.
Stretch wrap can be used for green shipping worldwide because it can be reprocessed and reused.
What is the best plastic wrap type for your needs?
Your choice should be based on a lot of factors, but primarily, you must assess each one by the following criteria:
Are you shipping a small parcel or big ones all at once? You may consider clear, glossy packing wrap for small items, such as food and cosmetics, where appearance matters. On the other hand, durability matters more when transporting multiple big boxes.
For pricey items like luxury goods and electronic gadgets, think of using an opaque stretch wrap. You may apply colored transparent plastic wrap on products of lesser value but for which tamper-proofing is still important.
Destination and mode of transport
The distance traveled by the package is a very important consideration when deciding which stretch wrap to use. The carriage method, which determines how fast and bumpy the journey will be, becomes more of a factor when shipping large volumes over long distances. You would want strong material for far destinations, especially on rugged voyages.
Breaking strength comes from a combination of the stretch wrap’s memory, thickness and resistance to tearing and puncturing.
Memory refers to the plastic’s tendency to get back to its original size once stretched. Film wrap with high memory is very resilient.
Meanwhile, thickness dictates resistance to tearing and puncturing. It is directly related to breaking strength.
Production speed and the need to use machines
Startups may produce low volumes at first, progressing as the business grows. This also means that their shipping needs are lower initially.
For low cargo volumes, i. e. less than 100 pallets daily, small business owners may want to use hand stretch wrap. Larger shipments are more efficiently packed using semi-automatic and automatic stretch wrap machines. Hand stretch wrap is generally thinner than machine-grade ones.
Your logistical efficiency also improves because of film wrap “cling” or stickiness. Cling enhances load stability and lets different areas of the same film stick together even without adhesive tape.
Load weight, profile and height
Generally, heavier and taller loads need a thicker stretch wrap or just multiple layers of it. The stacking of the boxes should also be optimized, done in an interlocking manner.
If you haven’t stacked pallets before, here’s a video from 3PL provider Shipmate Fulfillment showing how to do it properly:
Optical properties describe how stretch wrap interacts with light. Most of them can be appreciated visually. Technically, there are many optical properties to measure in stretch plastics. However, for practical purposes, we need only to be concerned about transparency, clarity, color, gloss and UV light inhibition.
Transparency pertains to the material’s ability to let light pass through, or simply, let you see through it. Stretch film is either opaque or transparent. As earlier mentioned, transparency is important to package security.
Clarity simply refers to how well you can see an item once it is covered by transparent stretch wrap. Without getting into the physics of it, clarity depends on how the material influences light waves’ behavior (e. g. bending and scattering) after they pass through.
Clear stretch wrap not only allows your customers to appreciate food freshness or cologne color. It also facilitates barcode scanning and RFID tagging, both of which are done for efficiency.
Colored stretch wrap has two main functions in logistics. One, it can be used for organizing and identifying different pallets. Two, it enables tamper-proofing.
Some sellers have also used colored stretch plastics to make their products stand out in retail stores, as in this picture.
Gloss is the reflective property of stretch film. While glossy plastic is used to enhance a package’s appeal, too much gloss reflects much light and can irritate some cargo handlers.
UV inhibition (UVI) is a special feature added to some varieties treated with sunblock-like chemicals. It prevents the decomposition of both the plastic and the products inside when the package is left outdoors.
The amount of stretch wrap to be used, the presence of special characteristics and the need to use machines all directly contribute to packaging cost.
Different types of stretch wrap
Stretch wrap is classified in many ways, but the most important ones are the following:
Classification according to the manufacturing process used
Stretch wrap is made using two film extrusion processes—cast and blown. They produce plastics with different qualities.
A cast film extrusion machine has a chamber that forms a film out of heated plastic granules. The film is compressed by a series of rollers that cool it down and make it thinner, clearer and glossier. The process also makes it easier to produce stretch wrap with two-sided cling.
This is a picture of a cast film extrusion machine.
On the other hand, a blown film extrusion machine has a central giant compartment that forces air into the hot plastic film. The film continues to spread upwards, like a tube, drying up and thinning down as air continues to blow through it.
This is a picture of a blown film extrusion machine. The film forms upwards and may reach a few meters in height before it is collected.
Because of the blown technique’s slow cooling process, a tougher but hazier film is formed. The method also usually yields a one-sided-cling stretch wrap.
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the stretch wraps made from these processes:
Ease of stretching
Cast film extrusion machine
- Usually two-sided
- More film is used for same-sized pallets
- Easier to stretch by hand
- More easily stretches or tears with movement, which may render big pallets unstable
- Relatively lower
- Unwinds more quietly
- Relatively lower
- Reaches breaking point more easily when stretched
- Relatively thinner
- Sufficient for most uses
Blown film extrusion machine
- Usually one-sided
- Less film is used for same-sized pallets
- Harder to stretch by hand
- Does not easily stretch or tear with movement, keeping big pallets stable
- Relatively higher
- Makes a loud noise during unwinding, which may annoy operators
- Relatively higher
- Its breaking point is harder to reach
- Relatively thicker
- For heavier loads and containers with pointed corners
*Cling is produced by chemically treating the plastic to make it tacky, and this can be done to one or both sides.
Stretch films with two-sided cling have the disadvantage of producing a sticky packaging exterior. Different pallets might stick together during shipment when using a two-sided-cling stretch wrap, which might lead to unwrapping problems, product damage or both.
Some manufacturers modify their extrusion methods so they can produce one-sided-cling cast and two-sided-cling blown stretch films.
Classification according to gauge
Gauge is a way to measure stretch film thickness. Generally, the higher the gauge is, the thicker the film is too.
For reference, the 80-gauge stretch wrap, which is the most commonly used type for shipments, has a thickness of 0.0080 in. and 0.0203 mm. enKo Products offers a durable line of 80-gauge stretch wraps.
Here is a comparison of the most commonly used stretch film types based on their thickness and general uses:
- A pre-stretched 80-gauge wrap
- Similar to home-use cling wrap
- For lighter loads
- Otherwise called a “hybrid” or “equivalent” stretch wrap because it functions like thicker variants despite its thinness
- Made from a combination of different plastic types
- Not to be used on packages with sharp corners
- Can be applied on boxes with blunt corners
- A common substitute for the 80-gauge wrap
- Most commonly used for its versatility
- Can be comfortably hand-stretched
- For heavier boxes, e. g. containing carpentry materials
- Machine-stretching is better to optimize performance
- For heavy, compact objects
- Machine stretch
- Not for hand-stretching
- Can be used on irregularly shaped boxes and pallets with different-sized containers
Ease of application
The stretch wrap’s thickness largely determines the need for machine use. Generally, variants thicker than the 80-gauge film require machine stretching for optimum performance. Without a machine, palletizing with a thicker stretch wrap is slower, unevenly done and results in much waste.
If your business is shipping only small packages or fewer than 100 pallets a day, you may opt to wrap them by hand if doing so is cheaper or convenient for you.
Manually wrapping small packages is easy. However, it takes skill to palletize stacks of boxes by hand. If you have never wrapped a pallet before but would like to learn how to do it properly, here is a video showing just that:
On the other hand, stretch wrap machines are convenient when you’re shipping more than 100 pallets a day. They are either semi-automatic or automatic, depending on how many tasks can be safely turned over to the machine.
We shall talk more about stretch wrap machines in future blogs.
Classification according to the width
This pertains to the stretch wrap’s coverage. Hand stretch film is available in 12”, 15” and 18”. Their size allows a hand operator to manipulate them easily but also limits their use to lighter loads. Machine-grade rolls are at least 20 inches wide and are designed for heavier load containment.
Classification according to the core diameter
This pertains to how wide the core of the stretch film roll is. Hand stretch wraps typically have 2” and 5” cores, allowing operators to move them freely. Stretch wrap dispensers, like the one in the picture below, make application even easier.
Machine-grade stretch wraps have wider core diameters as machines normally have larger film dispensers.
Classification according to the presence of cling
Most stretch wraps have either one-sided cling, differential cling or two-sided cling.
Stretch wraps that are tacky on just one side are said to have one-sided cling. When the sticky side is facing the load, the exterior cannot stick to other pallets. This lessens shipment damage from cling-induced film tearing.
Differential cling refers to one side of the film having more tackifying agent than the other. Stretch wraps with differential cling perform like one-sided-cling types and have superior tear resistance compared to two-sided variants.
Stretch film that is equally sticky on both sides is said to have two-sided cling. These plastics have superior tack and can hold heavy loads well. However, because they can stick to neighboring pallets, they tend to tear easily and damage shipments.
No-cling stretch film is a rare type. It can be applied directly on carpet, delicate fabric and other materials that can easily tear when you reposition them inside the wrap. You may use adhesive tape to secure it.
Classification based on transparency
Stretch wraps are either opaque or transparent. While transparent films are cheaper and used widely, opaque varieties enhance security by concealing the pallet contents and making them difficult to identify.
Classification based on color
As mentioned before, color has more important functions in stretch films than just enhancing their visual appeal. It can also minimize tampering and help organize the warehouse.
Both transparent and opaque stretch wraps are available in different colors.
The presence of special characteristics
Other stretch films can be classified based on the special features and functions they have. The most useful ones are:
Both transparent and opaque stretch wraps are available in different colors.
Stretch wrap can be supplied in a form that has been stretched close to its breaking point. This type is easier to use and provides the same load stability with 50% less film, significantly lowering packaging cost.
Reinforced stretch wrap is specially formulated for heavy-duty use. It can contain very high loads, even if they have pointed edges.
Vented stretch film allows some airflow and oxygen circulation in the package. It lets moisture escape, preventing it from accumulating. Vented stretch film is perfect for flowers, frozen products, animal food and other perishables.
Oxygen allows meat to retain its freshness. It interacts with myoglobin and hemoglobin, oxygen-carrying substances that give muscle and blood their red color.
UV inhibition (UVI)
UVI stretch wraps are coated on the outside with sunblock-like substances. UVI keeps sunlight from ruining the plastic wrap and its contents.
Vapor Corrosion Inhibition (VCI)
VCI stretch wraps are chemically treated to prevent metal rusting. They are designed for packing metallic products, like pipes, electrical appliance spare parts, etc.
Silage or Bale
Silage or bale stretch wraps are specially made for agricultural products. They prevent oxygen and moisture entry, preserving hay bales, corn, etc.
These are hay bales wrapped in specially made stretch film.
Anti-static film wraps have additives that reduce static buildup. They are best for shipping electronics and flammable substances.
In summary, we have pointed out the unique role of stretch wrap in packaging. It offers many advantages to small business owners that cannot be obtained from other palletizing materials. There are various considerations in selecting the best plastic wrap for your needs. However, picking the right one can protect your brand and investment in the long run.
If you’re looking for good-quality but low-cost shipping materials, you’ve come to the right place! enKo Products offers the following:
Try enKo Products today and get some great discounts!