What are the sustainability benefits of shrink packaging for beverages?

Posted November 13, 2017
For the beverages industry, shrink wrapping may be a viable alternative to cardboard cluster products.

Cluster packaging has been a mainstay of the beverages industry for many years. Collapsible cardboard packaging in high wet strength cardboard is not commonly recyclable. It's generally viewed as a sound option for producers looking for a simple packaging method that is easy to brand and dispose of.

However, the rise of flexible plastics – and in particular shrink film – means a practical alternative is available to assist sustainability in the beverage industry, as the following examples show. Shrink film can be sustainably used in the beverage industry.

Shrink wrapping can reduce total mass produced

Use of PE shrink film can result in less packaging produced (in terms of mass) than with high wet strength cardboard. Integrated Packaging research indicates that the mass of cluster packaging can be 3.5 times higher than the mass of shrink film used for beverages.

The reduced length, width and thickness of PE shrink film can mean that despite cardboard's recyclability, less product can end up going to landfill when PE shrink film is used.

Shrink wrapping can be more sustainable to manufacture

A key metric of sustainability is the greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted during manufacturing and disposal of packaging products. Research suggests that C02 emissions can be up to 80 per cent higher during the manufacturing of cluster packaging (compared to shrink film), while anaerobic degradation in cardboard and paper means the GHG emissions at landfill are also higher for cluster. 

How does shrink packaging compare to cluster?How does shrink packaging compare to cluster?

Shrink wrapping takes less energy to manufacture

The manufacturing process for cluster packaging in the beverage industry can require greater levels of energy than for shrink film as well. In fact, our research suggests that cluster manufacturing requires 25 per cent more energy than PE shrink film.

As energy costs for businesses continue to rise, this will be a crucial metric for companies reviewing their packaging model.

Shrink wrap uses less material per pallet

Across several variables, PE shrink wrap requires less material to produce and ship compared to cluster:

  • More packs per pallet means fewer pallets shipped with shrink film.
  • This results in lower fuel costs for transporting shrink film-wrapped products.
  • This creates a reduction in forklift operation and manual labour.

While cluster has many benefits for beverage industry operators, shrink film is emerging as a sustainable option for anyone looking to reduce waste and mitigate their emissions throughout production. For more information on the benefits of flexible plastics, contact Integrated Packaging Group.