A greener way of life is naturally something everybody aspires to. The desire to obtain this has brought the idea of biodegradability and environmental responsibility sharply into focus.
However, we have to say, from the outset, that whilst we have designed strategies to avoid negatively impacting the environment with our films, currently a truly biodegradable presentation shrink film does not exist. This is true for our industry, and is therefore as true for any of our competitors as for ourselves.
Accordingly, as small and large companies alike become increasingly concerned with the impact non-sustainable products on the environment, one has to be very careful about claims that are made. It is particularly disappointing to see that some manufacturers are prepared to mislead consumers with claims that their products are biodegradable when simply they are not.
The question arises then is, what is the definition of biodegradable shrink plastic films, and how can you tell if you’re being misled?
What Are Biodegradable Shrink Wrap Plastic Films Supposed to Do?
“Currently, there are no industrial technologies that result in the production of a biodegradable shrink film in the strictest sense – meaning a film compatible with the market requirements”.
This statement, made by a manufacturer, was made in relation to display shrink wrap plastic which is principally based on polyolefin structures.
In simple terms, this means that to be classified “biodegradable” a shrink wrap film must be capable of decomposition in the presence of bacteria of other micro-organisms under natural conditions, producing water, CO2 and biomass, as described by the European Standard EN 13432.
Rules and Regulations of Biodegradable Shrink Plastic Films
As mentioned, above,, there are currently no shrink wrap plastics that adhere to the definition given in the Harmonised Standard EN 13432. This alone provides the correct assessment criteria, considering biodegradability, compostability, and any potentially harmful material constituents of the product.
Elsewhere the EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC), allows for the correct categorisation of plastic films which are introduced to, and disposed within the marketplace.
Are “Degradable” Shrink Plastic Films Truly Biodegradable?
While we’d love to tell you that they are, the truth is that “degradable”, or “Oxo degradable” materials, are no more than polymers derived in the normal way from oil where special additives, which have been available for more than 20 years, have been added. This allows shrink wrap plastics to break down, although their basic molecular structures still remain present in the environment following degradation.
Attempts to class such shrink films as biodegradable fail because, whilst a level of breakdown occurs, there is no change whatsoever in their chemical composition. Hence, there is no true biodegradation.
What is the Alternative and What Does the Future Hold for Shrink Wrap Plastics?
Some might claim that Oxo-Biodegradable shrink films may offer a first step, but they aren’t truly biodegradable, and whilst they may point the way towards a more biodegradable product, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that they aren’t.
In reality the production of a true biodegradable shrink film is a long way off, and in fact, current thinking now favours the circular economy argument. This is to say that that the idea of throwing away products (even including so called”biodegradable” materials) is itself flawed, and if there is a means to recycle, so that nothing is thrown away into the environment, then it has be a better solution.
There is still work to be done from a material composition perspective to achieve this, and indeed from a strategic point of view in providing a means of collection, and post consumer cleansing, but this route could well be more achievable and indeed preferable. As a first step in this direction, we have recently worked with the OPRL (On-Pack Recycling Label) scheme, which provides a means of raising consumer awareness, and guidance toward disposal routes in relation to our films.
Currently we advocate that the most responsible approach is to minimise film thickness thereby minimising resource uptake. With this in mind, we have a range of materials that are both thinner and stronger than conventional materials which we are delighted to introduce to you.
If you’d like to find out more about Kempner and our shrink wrapping equipment, contact us today on 020 8952 5262.