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When is Printed Polythene Essential?

Printed polythene can seem like an afterthought. Something you add at the end of your packaging design process, to make products nicer to look at, or to market your brand. Well, yes – it’s great for making your brand stand out, and for at-a-glance information. But believe it or not, printing polythene can actually be life-savingly vital in certain situations.

In this post, we take a look at printed polythene again – only this time, at an angle you’ve probably never seen it from before; as an essential ingredient for life-and-death situations.


Printed polythene packaging for medical specimen sample. A yellow and black biohazard warning is printed on a clear polythene bag, with specimen visible inside


Printed medical polythene bags

In medicine, printed polythene is essential for packaging and waste management purposes. Think about this; when it’s life or death, the last thing you want to be doing is dropping a printed instruction booklet on the floor. Imagine fumbling around with a leaflet, when the packaging could have done the job.

Medical packaging plays a key role in protecting devices and medicines, but it also needs to be printed clearly – and if the only material for the packaging is polythene, then printed polythene is the order of the day. 

Usage instructions are only part of the reason that polythene printing is essential in the medical sector. The spec of the product, tolerances and usage information need to be clearly displayed on the packaging, too. Plus, any tampering or contamination must be visible instantly – and printed polythene can make this much easier to see at a glance.

Medical waste management

Hazardous waste bags need to be clearly marked. This is often universally managed by hospitals with colour-coding – but for absolute clarity and to help people with colourblindness, printing is also applied. Clear labelling with polythene printing just makes it very clear that the waste inside is dangerous, and explains why. This is especially important for people who don’t know what the colour codes are, such as visitors and patients, and also for any waste handlers or logistics crew.

Asbestos bags

Asbestos poisoning is deadly. And the worst part is… you might never know you’ve got it until it’s too late. Dealing with asbestos is no joke, and disposing of it requires meticulous safety procedure. Part of this is using colour coded and clearly printed asbestos bags.

They are an essential printing case for polythene – a legal requirement, even. All asbestos waste must be double wrapped and labelled. The inner bag must be made of red coloured polythene, printed with asbestos warnings. The outer bag must be made of clear polythene, with the carriage of dangerous goods (CDG) hazard sign printed onto it.

Learn more about asbestos packaging and documentation at

Warning labels

Printed polythene film can be used in so many ways – but it’s common to see polythene bags (or SWS formed into bags by an automated packaging machine) printed with choking hazard warnings and advice on safe disposal. We shudder to think how many lives may have been lost before this kind of printing was made available… But thankfully, it’s now commonplace.

Polythene packaging for electronics can also be printed with information on battery disposal, e-waste policies and safe handling.

So, far from being an afterthought, printed polythene really needs to be considered right at the start of your packaging design process. After all – it could save somebody’s life.

Printed polythene for critical applications

The packaging design experts at NPF spec printed polythene in critical applications – from medical polythene to hazardous waste disposal, and everything in between. We’ll deliver a custom polymer blend in practically any colour you need, with a custom printing process for absolute clarity. Ready to order? Get a quote online, or call us on 01773 820415.