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What Type of Plastic is Cellophane?

The festive season is here! I thought it would be fun to do an article that pertains not only to plastics but also to the festive season so I chose wrapping, specifically, cellophane wrapping.

Cellophane is a registered trademark of Innovia Films Ltd in the UK. It was the most popular choice of film until the invention of polypropylene (PP) in the 1960s, which over took the market, for being cheaper, easier to manufacture and high resistance to many chemicals.

Originally cellophane was created from regenerated cellulose from wood, cotton or hemp. These items are dissolved in alkali and carbon disulfide to make a viscose solution which is then reconverted to cellulose in a sulfuric acid and sodium sulfate bath and then put through a process to wash, coat it and protect the material to end up with what we see at stores. A few chemicals used in the process of making cellophane this way are toxic, however, once the product has completed its manufacturing process it is completely safe. It is 100% biodegradable and compostable. Cellophane is significantly more expensive its BOPP competitor and hence is not easy to source.

BOPP film (bi-axially orientated polypropylene) is biodegradable from exposure to heat and UV radiation. It is also recyclable and does not leach toxins into the soil and water. Food grade BOPP/cello wrap means it can directly wrap on to edible items. The difference between food grade and non-food grade wrap is food grade resin.

Both cellophane and BOPP share similar properties such as their Low permeability to air, oils, greases, bacteria, and water and both are degradable. Most of the time the two can be interchangeable.

It’s thickness is measured in microns which is 1000 microns = 1 mm. Nowadays you can buy cellophane, in multiple colours and even your own designs printed onto it for custom wrapping.

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