The World of Plastic | Differences Between PET, LDPE, HDPE

As plastic continues to pile up in our landfills and pollute our oceans, it’s important that we are aware of which types of plastic we can recycle. Read about the difference between PET, LDPE, and HDPE plastics—some of the most commonly produced plastics accepted by recycling centers around the world.

High-Density Polyethylene

High-density polyethylene consists of minimal branching and tightly packed polymers which result in rigid and dense plastic. HDP’s structure makes it the first choice for tasks that require a substantial compound, such as prosthetics, pipes, playground equipment, toys, food preparation, and chemical tanks. In fact, if you’ve ever bought plastic milk bottles in bulk, chances are they were all made out of HDPE material. Its wide range of functions includes moisture and impact resistance, which makes it one of the most commonly manufactured plastics.

Recycling centers will extensively clean and remove any debris from HDPE materials to ensure it’s safe to go through the recycling process. They will then shred it down or melt it into pellets which are then used by manufacturers to create new products.

Low-Density Polyethylene

The composition of low-density polyethylene is similar to that of high-density polyethylene, however, its alternating short and long chains result in a much more fluid, less dense structure. LDPEs make up a great deal of more flexible plastic products such as plastic water bottles, cling wrap, and grocery bags. Thanks to their lightweight nature, LDPE products actually use much less plastic and thus are a more sustainable option than other plastic alternatives. In fact, LDPE products are recycled all across the nation and transformed into shipping envelopes, floor tiles, paneling, furniture, landscape timber, compost bins and more.

Polyethylene Terephthalate

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is not only the most commonly used plastic polymer in the world but also the most recycled. It is highly valued in packaging because of the material’s transparency, moisture-wicking properties, and resistance to shattering.

Not only does it have applications in the food and beverage industry (it encloses nearly all of our food and body care products), but it appears in many of the clothes we wear—many manufacturers use it to form polyester. The textile industry is incredibly fond of PET because it is inexpensive and easily recyclable.

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