Shrink Vs Stretch – What’s The Difference?

Stretch Film

‘Could we have a sample roll of your shrink wrap, if this is suitable for wrapping pallets?’

‘I wanted to enquire about your shrink film – is it suitable for use in large scale pallet wrapping?’

‘We are looking at an environmentally friendly alternative to pallet shrink wrap.’

‘We are interested in the shrink wrap that you offer. Is this wrap ideal for wrapping pallets for transport?’


The above are real enquiries we have received at YPS in recent months and you may wonder ‘what’s the problem with that?’. It’s not until you understand that shrink film and stretch film are two very different products with completely different purposes that the errors become evident – yet mixing up the two types of plastic flexible is an extremely common mistake.

To complicate matters even further, stretch wrap is routinely called ‘pallet wrap’ and both products are described as either ‘film’ or ‘wrap’ interchangeably, despite these terms having the exact same meaning. It’s not surprising at all that our customers are confused!

This short guide should make the distinctions between shrink and stretch as crystal clear as our films…


Shrink Film

What?: Shrink film is a type of plastic sheeting that is designed to constrict with the application of heat from a shrink wrapping machine (or a heat gun when lower volumes are required) to produce a tight seal around an object. The finished effect is a (usually clear) plastic outer layer that is moulded around the shape of the product within.

Shrink wrap is a popular packaging choice for a number of reasons, including making items water-tight, tamper-resistant, protected from damage, maintaining their freshness, creating multipacks and improving aesthetic appearance.

Shrink film is available in varying thicknesses and widths and in either polyolefin or polythene specifications. Polyolefin is typically used for display applications where the presentation of a product is the most important factor and polythene is typically used in transit applications to protect a product during transportation. Shrink film properties can be tailored to the requirements of many different products, with high optics, breathable, antifog and puncture resistance amongst the variations available. Printed shrink films are also possible.

Best For Wrapping: The possibilities for shrink film are almost endless! Food, drinks, toys, cosmetics, aerosols, doors, windows, bottles, building products, automotive parts, DVDs, sanitary units and household items are amongst the common applications for shrink film.

Compatible Machinery Types: L sealers, side sealers, sleeve wrappers, shrink tunnels and flow wrappers.


Shrink Film


Stretch Film

What?: Also known as ‘Pallet Wrap’, stretch film is used to secure many items that are stacked together on a pallet prior to transportation in order to provide stability and protection. Stretch film is applied either by hand or with a stretch wrapping machine. It has an adhesive surface that clings to itself as it is wound several times around a loaded pallet and the tension that is created maintains the bundled structure.

Stretch wrap is usually clear in colour and is thicker than shrink wrap. It is available in varying lengths, widths and stretch ratios, depending how taut the finished pallet needs to be wrapped. Differing levels of puncture resistance and tear propagation are available depending on exact requirements.

Best For Wrapping: Any pallet configuration!

Compatible Machinery Types:  Fully or semi automatic stretch wrapping machines, either turntable or rotating head.


Stretch Film


For all your shrink and/or stretch wrapping requirements, contact our friendly team today!

Please note that all of our shrink and stretch films are fully recyclable to LDPE 04.