Cellophane is a thin, transparent and glossy film made of regenerated cellulose. It is produced from shredded wood pulp, which is treated with caustic soda. The so-called viscose is subsequently extruded into a bath of dilute sulfuric acid and sodium sulfate to regenerate the cellulose. It is then washed, purified, bleached and plasticized with glycerin to prevent the film from becoming brittle. Often a coating such as PVDC is applied on both sides of the film to provide a better moisture and gas barrier and to make the film heat sealable.1
Coated cellophane has low permeability to gasses, good resistance to oils, greases, and water, which makes it suitable for food packaging. It also offers a moderate moisture barrier and is printable with conventional screen and offset printing methods.
Cellophane is fully recyclable in home composting environments, and will typically break down in just a few weeks.
Production of Cellophane was high in the 60th but steadily declined, and today, synthetic plastic films have largely replaced this film. It is, however, still used in food packaging, particularly when high stiffness is preferred to allow bags to stand upright. It is also used for nonfood applications where easy tear is needed.
1Cellophane itself is not heat sealable because it is not a thermoplastic