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Polythene Sheeting: The Universal Wonder Material

Polythene sheeting is one of the most important inventions in the history of humanity. That’s no exaggeration – because without it, you might never have been born. It has totally revolutionised the way we go about our lives, from beginning to end. Polythene sheeting is in large part responsible for the expansion of the human population, and our control of the natural world.

We have plentiful, bountiful and highly varied food. We have better healthcare outcomes and longer lifespans. This single material has so many uses, in packaging and beyond – and in this post, we’ll be paying attention to the universal wonder material that may one day lead us to the stars.


An abstract, blue and red space-like image that appears to be shot through polythene sheeting


Polythene film on a roll

Polythene film roll is just one of the iterations of polythene sheeting that have made modern life possible. Its use in automated packaging systems has freed up human labour to do more important work, and increased production output ten times over.

Read more – Best Packaging: Centrefold Sheeting Or Single Wound Sheeting?

But it’s not just packaging that has benefitted from the advent of poly sheeting. And nowhere is this more evident than in farming and agriculture – where the food we depend on is grown using polythene.

Food production

Polythene film for farming is as flexible as the material itself, where it’s used as coverings for polytunnels, and as an insulating (or weed killing) top layer. Food growing is vastly improved with polythene, and it is part of the reason humans have managed to control our own food supply at such a scale.

Even if you buy all organic, all natural, all singing, all dancing veggies – it is all but guaranteed that polythene has been involved at some point in the logistics chain. And it goes without saying that packaging all the food we produce depends on polythene, too. 


It’s really hard to overstate how big a deal medical polythene is. The world of medical packaging was turned upside down when polythene arrived on the scene, and the devices that healthcare professionals rely on daily became cheap, plentiful and highly effective. It’s impossible to say just how many lives have been saved by medical polythene – but it wouldn’t be too far fetched to imagine that many of us simply would never have even been born without it.


In the past, we’ve covered in-depth how polythene sheet for construction has helped us command our physical world – even down to the role that polythene sheet plays in curing concrete.

Read more – Polythene For Concrete – How To Choose The Right Sheeting

But polythene sheeting has far more involvement in our world than we give it credit for. It’s used in construction as a permanent damp proof membrane, as a temporary covering, and as a packaging system for transporting and storing building materials. It’s an excellent insulator for electrical engineering, as sheets of polythene are often used to blanket electronic components, to protect against shorting.

Every aspect of life on Earth has been completely transformed by the invention of polythene. And one day, this wonder material could help us conquer the galaxy.

The future of polythene sheeting

Humans are a funny bunch. Even when we can’t seem to take care of the world we have, we’re on the lookout for a new planet to inhabit. And polythene sheeting, believe it or not, is going to be one of the most crucial technologies we have for space exploration.

Polythene already feeds astronauts on the ISS, and will likely be the material used to package space food in the future, too. But it can do a whole lot more…

Solar sails

Polythene has been considered for use in solar sails – a propulsion method that uses sunlight to push a spacecraft forward. Thin sheets of polythene could be used as the sail material, harnessing the momentum of photons from the sun to provide a constant acceleration to a spacecraft. Sounds like sci-fi, but this technology might be able to get a 2 tonne spacecraft to Mars in as little as 400 days.

Radiation shielding 

Polythene is well known for being strong and lightweight – but it’s also able to absorb and attenuate radiation. In space, astronauts are exposed to higher levels of cosmic and solar radiation, at often deadly levels. For instance – Jupiter’s radiation belts are so strong, any astronaut exposed to them would die in a matter of days.

Using polythene-based materials as radiation shielding in spacecraft and habitats will help protect astronauts from harmful radiation in space and on other worlds.

3D printing and colonising other worlds

On Earth, polythene is not an ideal 3D printing material. But it does work. When humans get out and explore space, we’re not guaranteed to find materials to build with. So, we’ll need to be able to make our own…

With some simple chemistry, polythene can be created from scratch – using extremely common molecules found in space: carbon dioxide and water. Future colonists on Mars will have an abundant supply of material to build with, and 3D print the tools they need to survive.

Read more about 3D printing with polythene on Mars

But they’ll also have access to material to create polythene sheeting – enabling them to create polytunnels for farming, extend or repair habitats, and use for storage and logistics on-planet.

Get polythene sheeting, designed for success

Our packaging design experts at NPF design custom polythene sheeting for use in critical applications. 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.