Polyethylene (PE) is a thermoplastic resin, resulting from the polymerization of ethylene. It is widely used in the food industry to extend the shelf life of food and extend expiration dates.
Polyethylene (PE) is one of the most widely used thermoplastics today for the manufacturing of products from the most diverse segments, and is subdivided into three groups:
- High-density Polyethylene (HDPE)
- Linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
This resin is used in blow molding, injection molding, rotational molding and extrusion. Each type of molding can generate products in the most diverse segments, from flexible plastic packaging, such as crate boxes, powder soap packaging, and milk packaging, to high-performance flexible pipes, such as corrugated ducts for drainage systems, smooth-walled pipes for sewage, irrigation, and conduction of electric and telecommunication cables.
Polyethylene is part of the thermoplastic family because it deforms with heat, being resistant to a maximum temperature of 120°C and a minimum of -100°C. The material is capable of undergoing sudden changes in temperature without changing its composition.
High-density polyethylene in particular offers advantages over similar materials and even the other ways of using polyethylene, since its chemical structure is linear, increasing its density, crystallinity, strength, and opacity.
Its properties make HDPE have excellent resistance to corrosion, when in contact with water, it does not hold oxygen or carbonic gas; chemical attacks, and electrolytic or galvanic actions.
High density polyethylene is widely used worldwide. Around 100 million tons of plastic materials are produced annually from HDPE.
About 30% of HDPE consumption worldwide is for blow-molded products, such as hygiene and cleaning bottles and food packaging, and 25% is for injection-molded products, such as buckets, crates and household utensils.
The transformation of HDPE by extrusion can generate products such as films, laminates and pipes, which also represent 30% of the world’s consumption of the resin. The remaining 15% are destined for the wire and cable markets.
In addition to these advantages, high-density polyethylene is the second most recyclable resin in the world. Its recycling is a very viable option, since packages produced with this plastic originate from several sources, such as toys, barrels, bags, among others.
As for the end use, the packaging sector represents 75% of the world market for this resin, while civil construction accounts for 10% to 15%.
Some PE applications are:
- Production of plastic films
- Manufacture of bottles
- Household parts and utensils
- Plasticization of products
- Packaging for chemicals