The Southern African Vinyls Association (SAVA) – the industry body representing the local vinyls industry – recently invited Dario Coppola, Product Manager Film at Fabbri Group and representative of Vinyl Films & Sheets Europe (VFSE), to unpack the numerous benefits of using PVC cling film.
The virtual meeting was well attended by representatives of the country’s largest retailers, brand owners, SAVA members, the media and other interested parties.“According to a recent study, 81% of chefs, caterers and food & beverage managers say cling film is essential to run their professional kitchen effectivelyi. Cling film is currently one of the most widely used materials for food storage around the world today.
Unfortunately, however, this causes us to also see a lot of mis-information and falsehoods being promoted by competitors of PVC cling film. The purpose of our talk today is to separate fact from fiction and allow science and international best practice do the convincing for us,” Dario said.“The reality is that plastic food packaging, and especially vinyl cling film, plays a crucial role in ensuring healthy and safe food for all. I will demonstrate to you today its unmatchable ability to keep food fresher for longer, reduce the risk of food wastage and enhance shelf life by protecting food from microorganisms, biological and chemical changesii”.
Mechanical characteristics There are various mechanical characteristics that set PVC cling film apart from other cling films. It extends the shelf life of fresh food and preserves their nutritional and organoleptic characteristics thanks to a higher Water Vapour Transmission Rate (WVTR) which prevents the accumulation of moisture inside the package. It allows the produce to breathe naturally due to its high permeability values for O2 and CO2 “Vinyl cling film returns to its original shape after manipulation and no stretch marks are visible on the package. This ensures that the product has a clean and refined look that is appealing to customers, when used both in plain and printed form. Moreover, PVC clingfilm also offers excellent extensibility and resistance to tearing,” Dario explained.
Other benefits of PVC cling film include: PVC can be used on most wrappers on the market for automatic, faster and optimised production.Compared to other polymer films, PVC offers considerable savings in terms of equipment maintenance and spare parts replacement.PVC seals well and properly protects the food against contaminations.PVC is more readily printable compared to others. A more appealing product on the retailer’s shelf encourages buyers and thereby prevents food waste.PVC cling films offer excellent optical properties such as transparency (“haze” in technical terms) and gloss due to the amorphous structure of the PVC polymer.It is available in various thicknesses and lengths, is tear resistant, highly stretchable and can be used in minimum quantities.
Comparing the performance of PVC versus other cling films Dario also discussed a visual comparison of PVC vs stretch films made from other polymers, tested on various different products over a period of 5 days. “Regardless of which type of tray the fresh food was packaged in, we can clearly see that in all the instances the surface of the product appears far more withered and decayed by Day 5 when using cling film made from alternative materials, than when we used PVC cling film. Red meat packaged in PVC cling film still has a healthy, red colour compared to the other sample which has started to turn brown in the tray. Fresh button mushrooms covered in PVC film still looks good by Day 5, while brown spots are raising on the surface of the mushrooms covered in alternative film after the same period,” he reported.
Addressing sustainability concerns PVC cling film is a natural resource-based solution which is largely derived from salt (40 %)— an abundant and inexpensive resource – and ethylene, which is derived from natural gas. LCA studies conducted by the Vinyl Films & Sheets Europe (VFSE) have shown that the environmental impact related to production of PVC cling film and its disposal at the end of life, is very small compared with the packaged food impact. 1 gram of cling film allows the preservation of several kilograms of foodiii.
Studies by the VFSE have also proven that cling film saves more waste than it creates. Despite this, one of the bigger concerns being raised against the use of all food wraps today, is the fact that they are generally difficult to recycle post- consumer – regardless of the polymer from which they are made. Clean, uncontaminated film is highly recyclable with more than 90 % of the waste generated in the production process recycled either internally or externally. Worldwide, the challenge therefore lies in the weakness of the collection of the system and the possible contamination of the material by food residue,” Dario explained.
The guest speaker and the audience were therefore excited to hear from Adri Spangenberg of VinylLoop – SAVA’s Section 18 PRO for PVC packaging waste - about trials which are currently underway in South Africa with various recyclers to test the recyclability of contaminated post-industrial vinyl clingfilm. This will likely see the development of new end-markets for this material, such as shoe soles and construction products.“I am very impressed to learn about the progress made with SAVA’s Vinyl Cling Film Compliance Initiative, which aligns the local industry with international norms and standards and ensures.
The four largest manufacturers of PVC cling film in SA (i.e. Mpact, Cibapac, Main Wrap and Easy Food Packaging) have signed up to be independently audited to ensure compliance to health, safety and environmental quality. It is clear that these industry leaders, supported by SAVA, are committed to doing the right thing. From the rest of the world’s side, we are eager to learn from you as you progress on your journey to demonstrating Extended Producer Responsibility and an even greater commitment to product stewardship,” Dario concluded.