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1. Interesting facts about cellophane as an environmentally friendly packaging material

With its stability and wet strength, plastic is clearly superior to paper as a storage place and packaging material. Hygiene is particularly important when it comes to food. The type of packaging has a major impact on fresh taste, appetizing appearance and, last but not least, health.

If paper packaging is not enough, there seems to be only plastic as a cheap alternative. It's also convenient and cheap. Is there even an alternative to plastic as a packaging material?

Take a close look! Some things that initially look like plastic turn out to be something else when you touch them: namely cellophane. It is about time that this plastic, which was developed more than 100 years ago, regained public awareness, because unlike conventional petroleum-based plastics, cellophane is biodegradable.

Discover cellophane bags and cellophane paper as a compostable alternative made from a sustainable raw material. Find out more interesting facts about the fascinating and environmentally friendly material.

2. Who Invented Cellophane?

The inventor of packaging film was the chemist Jacques Edwin Brandenberger, who invented cellophane in Switzerland in 1908 and marketed it under the brand name "Cellophane". The name is composed of the raw material cellulose and the ancient Greek word "diaphanes" for "transparent". "Cellophane" is therefore not a parallel material designation for cellulose hydrate, but a trademark. The word usage as a synonym is comparable to "Tempo" for a paper handkerchief or "Tesa" for an adhesive tape. If a product is successful, other manufacturers will soon produce it.

3. How is cellophane made?

In short, cellophane is made from hydrated cellulose. Its raw material, cellulose, comes from the cell walls of plants, mostly wood. During the manufacturing process, cellulose hydrate is produced from chemical pulp (obtained from cellulose pulp), from which it is extracted using caustic soda and carbon disulfide. The viscous viscose that occurs as an intermediate stage is cleaned and treated with sulfuric acid, resulting in the cellulose material. This now runs through several water baths as a film, primarily to remove the sodium sulphate that occurred during the manufacturing process. The last bath gives the cellophane film glycerine as a softener before it is dried on heated rollers and wound into rolls. Cellophane foils can be cut to size, printed and glued or welded to suit their later packaging purpose.

4. What are the properties of cellophane?

Cellophane was one of the first plastic food wraps made. The thin, colorless-transparent cellophane material that crackles when touched due to its certain rigidity has other typical features:

  • only slightly stretchable and malleable
  • relatively rigid or inelastic
  • tight against oxygen
  • waterproof but permeable to water vapor
  • long preservation of food flavors
  • Free from harmful bisphenol A (BPA), heavy metals and plasticizers
  • made without petroleum

From these properties, special advantages are derived for the material, also known as cellophane:

  • Since cellophane wrap is resistant to liquids but allows water vapor to escape, condensation does not form in cellophane wrappers.
  • Because of its low tensile strength and higher degree of rigidity, cellophane film, cellophane paper, cellophane bags and cellophane bags are perfect for machine packaging of goods.
  • Cellophane foil shows an attractive shine and hardly any signs of aging.

Unlike plastic wrap, cellophane wrap is flammable, forming ash when burned and smelling like its similar paper. Plastic foil, on the other hand, melts or shrinks as soon as it is lit and smells acrid.
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  • 5. What cellophane packaging materials are there?

    You can get cellophane as foil for individual cellophane wrapping as well as ready-to-use packaging units:

    • Cellophane paper from the roll
    • cellophane bag
    • cellophane bag

    Cellophane is available as an additional packaging element in the form of food labels. The odorless and tasteless plastic made from renewable raw materials is ideal as a label for sensitive foods such as cheese loaves. The material, which is permeable to air and yet preserves the aromas, keeps cheese and other foods hygienically fresh and protects them from unwanted sweating or even mold.

    That's a nice idea for creating culinary delicacies as a gift from your own kitchen! You can design your personal logo for this or simply write the recipe on the label for the recipient to copy.

    6. Why was cellophane over plastic packaging falling behind?

    How did it happen that the plastic materials that appeared from the 1950s onwards increasingly replaced cellophane films as packaging materials?

    It was by no means just due to the better elasticity of the new plastic films that cellophane films were more and more forgotten. Crucial to this development were the correspondingly higher production costs of the cellulose hydrate in the more complex manufacturing process. Sustainability and environmental protection played no role at that time. What counted was the lower production price of the plastic packaging, which subsequently enabled a favorable price calculation. The more modern plastic plastic scored with its progressive image and represented a competitive advantage for companies in the food industry. How would you have behaved back then?

    7. New Career Opportunities for Cellophane Packaging?

    In the meantime, environmental protection, resource conservation and the associated sustainability are rapidly gaining in importance. Thinking and acting ecologically is no longer just an individual lifestyle for many people, but they recognize such behavior as absolutely necessary for our generations and those that will follow us - for a future worth living in. Once urgent price issues are becoming a subordinate category of environmental protection.

    Renewable natural raw materials are gradually but steadily outstripping less environmentally friendly alternatives. Plastic and petroleum-based plastic are increasingly frowned upon. Instead, many retailers and individuals are rediscovering cellophane as an excellent packaging material for food. Incidentally, its special properties put its higher purchase price into perspective. Cellophane makes a particular contribution to maintaining the quality of the food packaged in it. They last longer and help reduce food waste. Food waste is known to be another economic and ecological evil.

    A big plus point on top of that: cellophane packaging is compostable or biodegradable. There are various options for disposal:

    • to rot in the compost bin or on the compost heap
    • for recycling into waste paper
    • burn to ashes

    Impressive what a great plastic cellophane is, isn't it? A few questions remain:

    1. Isn't cellophane a bit harmful to the environment?
    In terms of its material properties, cellophane is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Negative points result only from the chemicals used in its production: caustic soda, carbon disulfide and diluted sulfuric acid. Added to this is the higher energy consumption required for the complex production. The bottom line, however, is that cellophane has a noticeably more positive environmental balance than plastic.

    The wood used for cellophane production comes from certified sustainable forestry.

    2. Is cellophane food safe?
    Cellophane traditionally made exclusively from cellulose is food safe. Nevertheless, there are variants with a thin plastic coating, for example to reduce its permeability to water vapor. Cellophane-typical material properties such as low elasticity and crackling are often retained. If you would like to offer food-safe products, it is best to pay attention to such a mention of the packaging producer. Also, keep in mind that plastic-coated cellophane is not biodegradable.

    3. Is cellophane plastic or paper?
    Plastic does not automatically mean that something is made of plastic. Rather, “plastic” is simply a man-made material. Thus, the hydrated cellulose from plant raw material, better known under the term "cellophane", is a plastic, but not a plastic material made with petroleum. Cellophane has more in common with paper, which also consists largely of vegetable cellulose. Cellophane therefore belongs in the waste paper for disposal.

    Some municipalities recommend the yellow bag for plastic waste, as many consumers do not recognize the difference between plastic and cellophane waste. Lacquered or plastic-coated cellophane is also difficult for laypersons to recognize. The waste management company sorts the waste here.

    4. Is cling film made of cellophane?
    Its soft nature alone indicates that cling film is almost always made of plastic. Convince yourself by carefully igniting a piece of cling film and watching it melt. If, contrary to expectations, the film turns to ash, you are actually dealing with cellophane.

    5. What packaging materials are available in cellophane?
    Is cellophane also used to wrap other packaging materials? The use of cellulose plastic is not just limited to food. It is widely used, among other things, in the wrapping paper industry in the broader sense, for example by publishers or manufacturers of stationery such as stationery, envelopes and cards. Cellophane is also often used in cosmetics, cigarette boxes and haberdashery.

    6. Why cellophane is such a useful packaging material:
    The transparent material presents its contents at first glance. If you like, you can lovingly design the content into a small work of art. This works particularly well with flowers or small toys.


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