Guide to Cellophane Packaging
Everything You Need to Know About Cellulose Packaging
If you’ve been looking into environmentally-friendly packaging material, chances are you’ve heard of cellulose, also known as cellophane.
Cellophane is a clear, crinkly material that has been around since the early 1900s. But, it might surprise you to learn that cellophane, or cellulose film packaging, is plant-based, compostable, and a truly “green” product.
In this guide, we’ll answer the following questions:
- What is cellulose packaging?
- How are cellulose film packaging products made?
- What are the benefits of cellulose products?
- What is the future of cellulose packaging?
- Are cellulose packaging products right for my business?
What is cellulose packaging?
Discovered in 1833, cellulose is a substance located inside the cell walls of plants. It’s composed of a long chain of glucose molecules, making it a polysaccharide (the scientific term for carbohydrate).
When several cellulose chains of hydrogen bond together, they form into something called microfibrils, which are incredibly inflexible and tough. The rigidity of these microfibrils makes cellulose an excellent molecule to use in bioplastic production.
Moreover, cellulose is the most plentiful biopolymer in the entire world, and its particles have minimal environmental impacts. Though there are several different forms of cellulose. Cellulose food packaging is usually cellophane, a clear, thin, biodegradable plastic-like material.
How are cellulose film packaging products made?
Cellophane is created from the cellulose taken from cotton, wood, hemp, or other sustainably harvested natural sources. It starts as a white dissolving pulp, which is 92%–98% cellulose. Then, the raw cellulose pulp goes through the following four steps to be converted into cellophane.
1. The cellulose is dissolved in an alkali (the basic, ionic salt of an alkaline metal chemical) and then aged for several days. This dissolving process is called mercerization.
2. Carbon disulfide is applied to the mercerized pulp to create a solution called cellulose xanthate, or viscose.
3. This solution is then added to a mixture of sodium sulfate and dilute sulfuric acid. This turns the solution back into cellulose.
4. Then, the cellulose film goes through three more washes. First to remove the sulfur, then to bleach the film, and finally to add glycerin for durability.
The end result is cellophane, which is used in the food packaging industry, primarily to create biodegradable cellophane bags or "cello bags".
What are the benefits of cellulose products?
While the process of creating cellulose packaging is complicated, the benefits are clear.
Americans use 100 billion plastic bags annually, requiring 12 billion barrels of oil every single year. Beyond that, 100,000 marine animals are killed via plastic bags each year. It takes more than 20 years for petroleum-based plastic bags to degrade in the ocean. When they do, they create micro-plastics that further penetrate the food chain.
As our society grows more environmentally conscious, we continue to search for eco-friendly, biodegradable alternatives to petroleum-based plastics.
Aside from being a plastic alternative, cellulose film packaging presents a lot of environmental benefits:
- Sustainable & bio-based – Because cellophane is created from cellulose harvested from plants, it is a sustainable product sourced from bio-based, renewable resources.
- Biodegradable – Cellulose film packaging is biodegradable. Tests have shown that cellulose packaging biodegrades in 28–60 days if the product is uncoated and 80–120 days if coated. It also degrades in the water in 10 days if it’s uncoated and around a month if it’s coated.
- Compostable – Cellophane is also it’s safe to put in your compost pile at home, and it doesn’t require a commercial facility for composting.
The food packaging benefits:
- Low-cost – Cellulose packaging has been around since 1912, and it’s a byproduct of the paper industry. Compared with other eco-friendly plastic alternatives, cellophane has a low cost.
- Moisture-resistant – Biodegradable cellophane bags resist moisture and water vapor, making them an excellent choice for displaying and storing food items.
- Oil-resistant – They naturally resist oils and fats, so cellophane bags are great for baked goods, nuts, and other greasy foods.
- Heat sealable – Cellophane is heat sealable. With the right tools, you can quickly and easily heat seal and protect food products stored in cellophane bags.
What is the future of cellulose packaging?
The future of cellulose film packaging looks bright. A Future Market Insights report predicts cellulose packaging will have a compound annual growth rate of 4.9% between 2018 and 2028.
Seventy percent of that growth is expected to take place in the food and beverage sector. Biodegradable cellophane packaging film and bags being the highest expected growth category.
Cellophane and food packaging aren’t the only industries cellulose is used. Cellulose has been approved by the FDA for use in:
- Food additives
- Artificial tears
- Drug filler
- Wound treatment
Cellophane is seen most often in the food and beverage industry, pharmaceuticals, personal care, home care, and retail sectors.
Are cellulose packaging products right for my business?
If you currently use plastic bags for candies, nuts, baked goods, etc., cellophane packaging bags are a perfect alternative. Made from a resin called NatureFlex™ made from cellulose derived from wood pulp, our bags are strong, crystal clear and certified compostable.
We offer two styles of biodegradable cellophane bags in a variety of sizes:
We also offer a hand sealer, so you can quickly heat seal your cellophane bags.
At Good Start Packaging, we’re committed to providing high-quality, eco-friendly cellophane bags and compostable packaging. If you’re interested in learning more about our cellulose film packaging or any of our other products, please contact us today
P.S. Be sure you purchase your cello bags from reputable suppliers like Good Start Packaging. Many businesses market "green" cello bags made from polypropylene plastic.