Like many items of convenience, such as sliced bread and sandwich bags, the history of stretch wrap is not commonly known. In fact, most people don’t even know it by its name, and it is often thought to be the same as things like bubble wrap. Packaging film is generally taken for granted, but it has a much richer past than you might think. Imagine what it would be like to send a pallet of boxed items without stretch film to cover it. While it isn’t a nightmare, it certainly presents a lot of different problems that you don’t have to worry about today.
Stretch wrap is actually a relatively new invention. The exact year is uncertain, largely because several companies lay claim to be “The Company” that invented it. However, it is likely that different types of wrappers had been used for years, so that numerous companies were using their own version of the product to secure pallets and large groups of boxes for transport. As businesses grew and people realized that they needed a way to protect goods, it was clear that a real solution was needed.
By 1972, people had figured out that stretch film would help stabilize unit loads. Companies would begin to use the ideas and different types of stretch to get more customers. Two of the early types were made from LDPE (low density polyethylene) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride). PVC had a broader appeal because it was able to stretch 50% compared to LDPE’s 30%. However, it proved to be considerably less reliable as it was much more likely to tear than LDPE. The use of PVC was abandoned as companies figured out how to make LDPE that could further than PVC.
The problems with PVC introduced what seems like common sense to you today: durability was more important than how far the wrap would stretch. Initially, people felt that stretching further would save money since they could buy less. As inventory broke, wrappers and companies realized that more could be done to improve the strong stretch film. This lead to the evolution of the industry both in terms of the makeup of the film and the way it was applied.
The late 1970s saw a drastic changes in what was used to make LDPE, and a new type, LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene) was created. It was a significant improvement compared to the previous types as it stretched further without sacrificing its durability. No matter what kind of load you had, it was nearly guaranteed to make it safely as long as it was handled properly.
The 1980s saw yet another shift. Where the first types of packaging film were single layered, triple layered film was becoming the new standard. A decade later this increased to five layers. By the turn of the century, the standard was between seven and nine layers. Each new layer was comprised of different chemicals, increasing the best qualities of stretch film.
The technology used to create stretch film continues to improve the product. You can place orders that are based on different needs, from the load size and configuration to product you want protected. And as the product improves, becoming sturdier and more flexible, you end up saving money because you need less packaging to secure your load.