PVC vs Polyolefin: What is Better for Your Business?

Shrink wrap films are commonly used for product packaging across many industries. These plastic films shrink tightly when heat is applied, moulding to the shape of the item being wrapped.

PVC vs Polyolefin: What is Better for Your Business?

There are three major types of shrink wrap films: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polyolefin, and Polyethylene. Each of these 3 types has its own unique properties, pros and cons. Businesses must choose the right shrink wrap film based on factors like cost, strength, compatibility with equipment, etc..

In our article, you will find a detailed comparison between PVC and Polyolefin shrink films that will help you determine which is better suited for your business.

What is Shrink Wrap?

Shrink wrap refers to thin plastic film rolls that shrink and conform to the shape of a product when heat is applied. The film wraps tightly around all sides of an item or bundle of items, protecting it during storage and transportation.

Shrink wrapping is commonly used to:

  • Secure outer packaging like boxes, cans or bottles.
  • Create tamper-evident seals on food, pharmaceuticals, electronics.
  • Waterproof products for export or outdoor storage.
  • Bundle smaller items into packs for retail display.
  • Provide a transparent layer allowing contents to be visible.

The shrink wrap film is loosely wrapped around the products and then passed through a heat tunnel. As it heats up, the film shrinks tightly over the contours of the items. Shrink tunnels utilize temperatures between 190°F to 300°F depending on the film.

Shrink film suppliers usually have various types of products that are available to suit different applications across industries. The most common include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyolefin and polyethene.

PVC Shrink Film

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most widely used shrink wrap films globally. Low cost and versatility are the things that make it a popular choice in many industries.

Properties of PVC

PVC shrink wrap is lightweight, durable and has high clarity. It is easy to use with most heat sealing equipment. The film shrinks smoothly around products when heated to around 300°F. 

PVC is commonly used to package non-food items like books, CDs, software boxes and more. PVC is a great solution if you are working in the food sector, pharmaceuticals, consumer goods, and industrial packaging.

Advantages of PVC

  1. Low Cost. PVC is typically the most affordable shrink film option. This makes it ideal for companies wanting to minimize packaging expenses.
  2. Good Clarity. PVC wrap maintains transparency after shrinking to provide a clear display of packaged products.
  3. Easy Shrinking. PVC film shrinks rapidly when exposed to heat. Simple heat guns or tunnels can be used to shrink it down tightly.
  4. Heat Resistance. PVC can be used to wrap heat-sensitive materials as it shrinks at lower temperatures than other films.

Disadvantages of PVC

  1. Harmful Fumes. Heating PVC releases hydrogen chloride gas which requires proper ventilation.
  2. Temperature Sensitivity. PVC becomes brittle in cold temperatures and softens in heat. This impacts seal strength.
  3. Limited Strength. PVC is prone to tears and has lower puncture resistance than polyethene or polyolefin films.
  4. Shape Limitations. It cannot conform well to irregular shapes. Polyolefin works better for uneven products.

Polyolefin Shrink Film

Polyolefin (POF) is a popular shrink film alternative to PVC in many applications. It is durable, versatile and provides excellent clarity.

Properties of Polyolefin

Polyolefin films are composed of polypropylene and polyethene polymers. This gives them high tensile strength and puncture resistance. POF has excellent optical properties, maintaining transparency and gloss even after shrinking.

POF meets FDA regulations for direct food contact. It also produces fewer byproducts during heating, reducing buildup and maintenance needs for equipment.

Advantages of Polyolefin

  1. Durability. Polyolefin has high strength and stretches without tearing easily. This ensures products remain properly wrapped.
  2. Clarity. The glossy, clear and brilliant appearance of POF is great for retail and consumer items.
  3. Quick Shrinking. POF shrinks rapidly and consistently when exposed to heat.
  4. Versatility. Polyolefin can conform well to products with irregular shapes and sharp edges.
  5. FDA Compliance. Meets requirements for direct food contact applications.

Disadvantages of Polyolefin

  1. Higher Cost. Polyolefin shrink wrap is more expensive compared to PVC.
  2. Limited Compatibility. POF may not work with some older sealing equipment designed for PVC films.

Comparison of PVC and Polyolefin

PVC and polyolefin have distinct properties and advantages based on characteristics like tensile strength, temperature resistance, clarity, and compatibility with packaging equipment. Polyolefin overcomes some drawbacks of PVC like brittleness and limited shrink capability. However, PVC maintains benefits like lower material cost and broader equipment compatibility.

Carefully weighing these differences allows companies to determine which film is better suited for their specific application requirements, equipment, products, and budget

The following table summarizes the main differences between these two popular shrink wrap materials:


Factor PVC Polyolefin
Cost Lower cost per square foot More expensive than PVC
Strength Prone to punctures High tensile strength, puncture resistant
Clarity Good optical clarity Excellent clarity and gloss
Shrink Quality Mediocre, can be uneven Consistent, tight shrink
Shape Conformity Limited, not good for irregular shapes Excellent, can handle sharp edges
Temperature Resistance Becomes brittle when cold Maintains flexibility in cold temps
Sealing Equipment Compatible with most equipment May not work on some older sealers
FDA Compliance Not approved for direct food contact FDA approved for food packaging
Byproducts Releases hazardous HCl gas when heated Produces minimal byproducts


When selecting a shrink wrap film, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The right choice depends on your specific products, equipment capabilities, production environment, and budget.

For high-speed operations using automated shrink wrap equipment, PVC can be ideal. The lower material cost and broad equipment compatibility make PVC a solid option for efficient packaging processes.

Polyolefin is preferable for irregular or delicate items needing tighter shape conformity. Its superior strength and clarity also make it suitable for retail or consumer products where appearance is important. Despite the higher cost, polyolefin’s performance advantages can outweigh the savings from cheaper PVC film

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