Sustainable Packaging: Cellophane Wraps

Cellophane wraps were the first see-through, compostable and biodegradable plastic packaging materials. Jacques E. Brandenberger is the Swiss chemist behind the invention of this material in the 1900s. Whitman’s candy company in the US was responsible for making the material popular in 1912 when it started using it to wrap candies. Prior to invention of cellophane wraps, self-service retail as we know it today was rare. The material was crucial in the development of self-service retail. This is because manufacturers were now able to manipulate the appearance of their products by controlling moisture and oxygen levels while consumers were able to see the packaged food product ad assess its quality before buying. Read on to find more information about cellophane wraps.

What Are the Materials Used to Produce Cellophane?

Cellophane is based on plants. In fact, the “cello” here refers to cellulose, the structural components of plants. Cellulose can therefore be derived from a number of natural sources that may include cotton, hemp, wood pulp and corn. It is important to note that in some countries such as US, the term cellophane is a generic one. This means that it can refer to other bioplastics or biofilms such as polypropylene and PVC. This can be misleading because neither of these two is compostable or biodegradable.

Some may find the terms compostable and biodegradable a little confusing;

  •    Compostable refers to that which can be processed into humus or compost.
  • Biodegradable only refers to that which can be broken down through a biological process.
  •  All compostable materials are biodegradable, but vice versa is not always the case.

So where does cellophane fall between the two?

Is Cellophane Degradable, Compostable or Both?

Cellophane wraps are biodegradable. However, other materials and coatings may be added to cellophane to improve its water resistance and durability as well as making it amenable to heat-sealing. Additives such as polyethylene are usually added and it is good to note that these are not biodegradable.

Cellophane wraps are compostable. As mentioned before, sometimes cellophane can fail the compostable test due to the type of additives used. If petroleum-based plastic additives are used, then these are not compostable. However, it is safe to conclude that cellophane is both biodegradable and compostable.

What is Better, Cellophane or Plastic?

Starting in the 1960s, petroleum-based plastics such as polypropylene gradually and largely replaced cellophane. This is because such plastics were comparably more durable and were cheaper to produce. But on the downside, these materials resulted in huge amounts of non-biodegradable plastic waste. In recent years, cellophane has experienced a great come-back. As a result of the efforts of environmental activists, many manufacturers have come to understand the dangers posed by plastics on the environment. Manufacturers have also realized that cellophane has properties comparable to plastics when it comes to packaging. It is therefore a better option for manufacturers and consumers that are environmentally conscious and want to go the plastic-free way.

Cellophane is also better than plastic when it comes to disposal. However, it scores poorly when it comes to water-resistance and recycling but at the end of the day, it is relatively inexpensive and the more sustainable option for packaging.

For What Purposes Can You Use Cellophane Bags

Cellophane wraps and bags can be used for a variety of purposes. Some of these include the following;

·   Packaging products such as food, cosmetics, textiles, loose tea and even gifts.

·   Displaying products such that customers can see them before they purchase.

Cellophane wraps and bags are not only sustainable but also eco-friendly. In this way, manufacturers and consumers who want to care for the environment will find them the best choices.


When processed properly by taking note of the choice of additives, cellophane wraps are both compostable and biodegradable. They are made from cellulose which is a plant structural component. It is therefore right to conclude that a cellophane wrap is better than any other wrapping or packaging material.   

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