Without a doubt, one of the most widely used plastics around is High-Density Polyethylene or HDPE plastic. It doesn’t get as much press as it’s more talked about companions (namely polycarbonate and acrylic), but it’s integral to a far greater variety of objects and tools than you might think. From water tanks to children’s toys, to computer cases and car dashboards HDPE products are everywhere.
What is High-Density Polyethylene?
HDPE is a thermoplastic and is most often dealt with in the form of a sheet. A thermoplastic is a polymer that becomes plastic/flexible upon heating, and of course, hardens upon cooling. High-density polyethylene is made up of a string of ethylene molecules, which gives it the ‘poly’ in polyethylene. It is well-known and liked for being strong, lightweight and easy to shape. Because of this, the use of HDPE sheeting has only increased as the years have gone by, again due to the benefits and efficiencies it can bring to nearly any product.
What are the Benefits of Using HDPE?
There are many reasons why HDPE plastic is popular. The most important benefits of HDPE include:
- Resistance: HDPE plastic features a high chemical and impact resistance, in addition to being immune to rust, rotting, insects, mildew, and mold.
- Life-Span: Because of HDPE’s high chemical, weather and impact resistance; it can outlast most traditional materials.
- Durability: The durability of HDPE while still being lightweight is one of the most important factors to its popularity.
- Weight: As mentioned above, HDPE is well-known for being an excellent combination of lightweight and durable. This is why you see it in everything from children’s toys to chemical tanks.
- Malleability: HDPE plastic is quickly and easily molded into just about any shape. As a result, molding/transforming can take place in a factory or on-site (often done in repair jobs).
- Weatherability: HDPE plastic is used in a variety of outdoor applications and can withstand some of the most extreme weather.
- Sustainability: In addition to all the above benefits, HDPE is easily recyclable.
Common HDPE Plastic Applications
Across the world, HDPE plastic sheet is used for a range of applications and industries. Just about everyone has used or benefited from something made of HDPE before. Some common applications are:
- Piping systems
- Fuel tanks
- Hard hats
- Telecom ducts
- Water bottles
- Food and beverage containers
Next time you pick up a plastic item, check the bottom — if its recycle number is a 2, then it contains HDPE.