Magazine and Catalogue Wrapping – What Is The Best Option?

The world of magazine and catalogue mailing is changing for many reasons, not least in response to environmental concerns. The industry is challenging the environmental credentials of all magazine and catalogue wrapping materials and investigating how the process itself can become more sustainable. At ADM we approach every area of what we do with as much environmental consideration as possible.


Current options available to customers include:


LDPE Polywrap

This is currently the default material for magazine and catalogue mailing. Plastic wrapping is currently being vilified given its environmental damage.  However, LDPE polywrap is a lightweight, cost-effective material which is 100% recyclable with household waste (where accepted by local authorities) and in some cases, with bags at larger retail stores or supermarkets.  It is a clear, robust material, providing protection for the magazine or catalogue and can be printed on using non-toxic inks.

Magazine and Catalogue Wrapping Options - Polywrap

Biodegradable Starch-based Film

Starch-based films (known as PLAs) are normally made from either corn or potato starch. They are relatively new to the world of magazine and catalogue mailing, providing a more environmentally friendly wrapping solution.

ADM’s choice of alternative to LDPE polywrap is Bioplast 300 which contains potato starch, a by-product of potato chip and crisp manufacturing industry in Northern and Eastern Europe. Bioplast 300 is 100% biodegradable and compostable according to EN 13432. It has also achieved the OK Compost HOME certification awarded by TÜV Austria.

It is every bit as durable and can be printed on in just the same way as the plastic alternatives. 

The most obvious advantage of using potato-starch wrapping is the reduced reliance on single-use polythene. There are no plasticisers or toxins in the starch-based wrapper and as a result, it will degrade even in landfill within a year.  The potato starch polywrap can be disposed of both in home composting bins, or where accepted by authorities, in food waste recycling or green bins. 

As with any new product, it takes time to educate and change behaviour. ADM and other mailing houses are putting pressure on all Local Authorities to accept this potato starch polywrap.

The starch-based wrap is not necessarily the cheapest wrapping solution as the cost is more than double that of LDPE plastic, but it is worth remembering that wrapping is actually a relatively small part of the total wrapping, personalisation and postage costs.

Until recently, it has been a challenge for the Royal Mail scanners to read the 2D mail mark barcode through the opaque, starch-based wrap and so mailing using this wrap hasn’t qualified for the new Royal Mail Magazine Subscription discount. However, ADM is currently undertaking a six-month, penalty-free test using a client’s actual magazine mailing and Royal Mail are altering their machinery to ensure the 2D mail mark can be read through the bioplastic wrap. So far, the results look promising and we hope that bioplastics will be eligible for the new Royal Mail Magazine Subscription discounts very soon.

Magazine and Catalogue Wrapping Options - Biodegradable Starch Wrapping

Paper Enclosing

Paper is a sustainable and renewable resource. It is 100% recyclable with all Councils providing kerbside collections. Paper enclosing can take the form of either envelopes or a wrapping which would be similar to our current polywrapping service.

Investigations continue into the enclosing speed and the ability to continue to wrap with additional products enclosed such as third-party inserts. Inserts can make the publication bulge, therefore reducing wrapping speed. Any paper provided for use as a paper wrap solution would be subject to the same stringent environmental practices that currently apply to all paper procurement, especially in terms of FSC accreditation. It must also be cost-effective and in line with Royal Mail guidelines.

ADM will continue to lobby the Royal Mail Strategic Mail Partnership and push for sustainable mail discounts to be applied to everything, including magazines, and not just Advertising mail.

Magazine and Catalogue Wrapping Options - Paper Enclosing

‘Naked’ mailing

The final option is mailing as an unwrapped product.

This is possibly the most environmentally friendly option available.  Whilst the absence of an outer wrapper reduces waste and would be more environmentally friendly, ‘naked’ mailing has its own considerations.

A move to naked mailing would mean magazines or catalogues could no longer carry third-party inserts, which does have huge financial implications for customers. The robust nature of the postal system could even mean products arrive in a slightly damaged condition because of the absence of any form of protective outer wrapping. Some direct mail catalogues are sent out naked, but some are delivered damaged. Whilst this level of damage can be tolerated when the recipient isn’t necessarily expecting to receive the catalogue, recipients who have paid for a membership where a magazine or guide is included as a member benefit may be disappointed if the item, they have effectively paid for, arrives damaged.

Magazine and Catalogue Wrapping Options - Naked Mailing

In Conclusion

Ultimately it comes down to your magazine or catalogue wrapping preference, and your commitment to both sustainability and the environment despite the cost pressures. Each of the options highlighted have their advantages, as well as their disadvantages, and all of them contribute to waste, some more than others. Cost matters but whatever decisions are made, all of the factors and complexities should be considered. It is best to make informed, long-term decisions that will shape our environmental practices for many years to come but which appreciate the cost pressures we all face.


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