Will renewable or post-consumer-recycled resins affect the quality of the film?

Sustainable PE film doesn't have to suffer in performance when renewable or post-consumer recycled resins are used, as long as it is made with the correct attention to detail.

How is sustainable film made?

The key to creating sustainable films is to use a multilayering technique. Instead of using a mono-layered film with one resin, market-leading films are now made with multiple layers of different resins. Each resin layer is optimized to provide a specific function in the film.

When it comes to post-consumer-recycled or renewable-resource-based resins, layering allows for high-performance material to remain on the outside layers, holding sustainable resins in the core. Clear printing surfaces and great layers for sealing are still possible this way. If the resins were blended into one layer, performance would most certainly suffer, as the film wouldn't be able to gain the same attributes.

How can film be more sustainable?

The first step to more sustainable film is to down-gauge. In addition to being a money saver, using a thinner film gauge also means consuming significantly less material—sometimes up to 20 percent less. Down-gauging also reduces the amount of material that consumers have to dispose of.

A second step to sustainability is to substitute typical petroleum-based resins with renewable-resource-based resins, such as sugar cane, corn stalks, wheat grain and sugar beet. Using these resins, shopping bags and produce bags can be made compostable.

Finally, manufacturers can use post-consumer-recycled (PCR) resins in some of their formulations. Admittedly, PCRs can only be used so many times before they lose quality, but recycling them twice or three times is better than no recycling.

What's the difference between co-extruded film and extruded film?

Co-extrusion is the process of extruding two or more materials simultaneously through a single, multilayered die. The materials' flow paths in the die are arranged such that each layer processes individually and merges at the die lip prior to cooling. 

In the traditional (extruded) method, only one material—or one blend of several materials—is extruded through one die.

Do I need a co-extruded film or extruded film for my application?
We recommend co-extruded films for most applications. That said, basic packaging that has a LLDPE blend and LD blend—used for non-critical applications—processes easily and consistently, and produces satisfactory film, so traditional film is best in these cases.

What are the benefits of co-extruded film?

Here are the top three benefits of co-extruded film:
-    Higher quality film
-    Ability to down-gauge and achieve higher performance specifications
-    Customizable film recipes for unique applications 

What questions should I ask to ensure my film is compliant with international safety standards?

Questions you should ask include:

1) What specific regulation do we need to address with the film we will be purchasing?
Every material has different compliance guidelines. You want to make sure the right subsection is being applied to your film.

2) Has migration testing been performed on these materials?
If the answer is yes, you'll want to ask if there are any restrictions regarding cure times, food contact film types, food types or temperatures.

3) What data can be provided about the food contact safety profile of the film?
This is a question to cover your bases, so there are no surprises about the film you're getting.

The answers to these questions will equip you to choose the right materials for safe food packaging, and gives you the advantage over non-compliant competitors.

If my product is recalled for packaging-related reasons, who is responsible?

In the case of a recall, the end-user is legally responsible for food safety. However, there is no reason why your packaging materials supplier shouldn’t take the initiative to implement the safest procedures in their manufacturing process. Be sure to ask about compliance with safety standards, such as HACCP, the FDA, AIB or IMS, before choosing your supplier.

What are some basic tips for gaining efficiencies?

For gaining efficiencies, we recommend supplier-managed inventory. When film manufacturers store your film on site (providing continuous supply), it means fewer rolls on the floor and more space to store other inventory. This gives you quickly accessible stock, should you ever run out at your site, compressed lead times and a competitive edge with speed to market. When you place a blanket order, you should also reduce order-processing costs and be better able to manage cash flow.

How is it possible to down-gauge without affecting film performance?

Optimized strength, seal and gloss are about the right formula, not bulk. The best films are multilayered with customized resins, leveraging each property to provide the highest-performance film packaging solution. Thinner, more effective film is achieved by using the finest resins available, but in a smaller proportion.

How does down-gauging save money?

Depending on the application, you could down-gauge your film by up to 20 per cent. With 20 per cent more film per roll, 20 per cent longer run times, and 20 per cent less labor for product changeovers, every down-gauged film order adds up to significant savings in both money and time.

How can film be made brighter and whiter?

Brighter and whiter film depends on the quality of its ingredients. For brighter packaging, using better grades of titanium will reduce the grayish look in your white films. The same goes for clearer films, where manufacturers use virgin grades of resin on the outside layers of the film.

How is film made flatter?

Better film comes down to technology. With state-of-the-art equipment, manufacturers can establish and control a much smaller variance within the film. Blown extrusion technology with an oscillating nip system has the ability to measure specification accuracy at a constant rate. If the auto-gauging system detects an irregularity, it automatically self-corrects to prevent any bumps or creases in the roll. Rolls with a consistent, cylindrical geometry allow for larger outside diameters, so production lines can run longer, with fewer roll changes and less down time.

What is the defining characteristic of a high-quality film?

The defining characteristic of a high-quality film is the consistency of its gauge. Flatter—or more consistent—film means a better printing surface, increased reliability in strength, and faster converting speeds.

Do I need a customized solution?

Whether or not you need a custom formulation depends on your application. For basic, non-critical applications, an off-the-shelf film will probably suffice. The best practice is to consult with your supplier.

How many materials can IEF’s machines blend into one film?

IEF machines can blend up to 24 resins and additives on five layers to create a single roll of film.

How does customization work?

With multilayer film lines, manufacturers can blend several different resins within one film, leveraging the properties of each layer. With literally thousands of resins available, the possibilities are limitless. Every single layer of the film can be optimized for certain properties or characteristics. Customers can have an all-in-one film that meets individual performance specifications for stiffness or modulus, sealing and gloss.