High-density polyethylene, commonly abbreviated as HDPE, is a type of plastic derived from petroleum that can be easily melted down and shaped into various configurations. Manufacturers of HDPE containers use high-density polyethylene to form the containers into specific shapes per the requests of their clients. Because manufacturers utilize heat to manipulate the material, HDPE is considered by many as a polyethylene thermoplastic.
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Applications of HDPE Containers
The packaging industry uses HDPE most extensively to manufacture their containers. Because of the versatility of HDPE, these containers can be found in a wide range of forms, from industrial-sized packaging to smaller-scale containers such as plastic grocery bags, laundry detergent bottles, milk jugs, or fuel tanks in automotive vehicles.
Material Properties of HDPE
Compared to other plastics, such as those you can peruse here, HDPE is usually denser. This is due to HDPE’s crystalline properties due to the short, linear chain branching within its molecular structure. Its high density allows the plastic to be lightweight but at the same time incredibly durable, so the mobility of the product is not compromised in favor of more protective attributes.
In addition to its resistance to impact, HDPE is also resistant to corrosion and chemicals. HDPE is most resistant to both dilute and concentrated alcohols, esters, acids, and bases. It is moderately resistant to ketones, aldehydes, and vegetable oils. It has a fair amount of resistance to aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons, oxidizing agents, and mineral oils. Finally, substances to which HDPE is poorly resistant are halogenated hydrocarbons. Therefore, it is important to be aware of what your ideal container may be exposed to in searching for containers that best suit your needs.
Despite being poorly resistant to a few substances, HDPE possesses many advantageous characteristics. Because of its versatility, HDPE is not exclusively used for containers. Other products that can be made from HDPE include flooring material, furniture, and plastic lining found in landfills for the prevention of contaminant seepage into the ground.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing HDPE Containers
The beneficial properties of HDPE and the growing worldwide market for HDPE containers make it a highly sought-after material. HDPE is a non-biodegradable material and can take centuries to completely decompose. It also takes a high amount of fossil fuels and a total of 1.75 kg of oil (approximately 3.9 lbs) to produce 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of HDPE. It is also more cost efficient to manufacture a product from recycled HDPE than new material. Therefore, reusing and recycling HDPE is vital for the sake of the environment and can save a company money in production costs. In addition to containers, products such as piping, toys, and rope can be made from recycled HDPE. Most recycling centers worldwide accept HDPE, as it is among the easiest polymers to recycle. Once cleaned and sorted, HDPE must be homogenized. Plastic that contains other polymers in addition to HDPE can negatively affect the recycled final product if processed. The homogenization filters the HDPE from the other materials in the batch and ensures that only HDPE is processed. After this step, the HDPE is shredded and melted down in order to refine it. Once cooled, the recycled HDPE takes on the form of pellets which can be reused to manufacture HDPE products, including containers.
Since many HDPE containers are used right at home, there are also things that you can do at home to help recycle HDPE containers. All containers made from HDPE feature the triangular recycling symbol with a “2” at the center. HDPE containers can be easily reused if they are thoroughly washed out first. Another step that can be taken is buying plastic bottles in bulk, which greatly decreases packaging waste. There are many major supermarkets that have designated collection areas where used carrier bags can be dropped off to be recycled.
There are many ways to produce HDPE containers, and many ways to reuse and recycle the material. To ensure that you acquire the best possible HDPE container that meets all of your application’s requirements, it is highly recommended that you consult a custom HDPE container manufacturer that has experience working with thermoplastics and is knowledgeable of a wide range of thermoplastic manufacturing methods.