What Type of Plastic Packaging is Best for Your Product?
Fri Mar 15 2024

Polymers come in a multitude of varieties and can be adapted to many different applications. They are commonly classified into three groups: thermoplastics (crystalline and amorphous), thermosets, and elastomers. Most polymers used in packaging fall under the plastic category, or more specifically, thermoplastic. For thermoplastics, polymer chains are held together by relatively weak intermolecular forces and there is no cross-linking between the chains. These forces can be overcome, meaning the polymer's shape can be changed, by applying heat and pressure. However, these changes are reversible, so the material can be reheated, remolded, and cooled repeatedly. The polymer can exist in either crystalline or amorphous states (more on this in our course!). You are probably familiar with some of these plastics, as they are represented in the 6 main recycling codes found on plastic packaging.

Examples of different types of thermoplastic materials include polypropylene, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, polyethylene terephthalate, and polycarbonate. Let’s look at a few of these in more detail and their specific applications in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. 

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE) is common to the packaging industry. It is clear, tough, and shatterproof. This material is a good candidate for peanut butter jars, water, and soda bottles, or narrow neck containers, such as mouthwash, vitamins, or salad dressing.

Another thermoplastic, High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), is flexible, strong, chemical resistant, and opaque. HDPE is a suitable choice for milk jugs, juice bottles, dairy tubs, liquid detergent bottles, medicine bottles, or grocery and trash bags.

And finally, the thermoplastic Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). This material’s toughness and chemical resistance make it a good choice for shampoo bottles, cooking oil, salad dressing, PVC piping, window cleaner bottles, blister packaging (pill dispenser with foil cover push-through), and transparent display packaging.

The world of polymers is vast and complex, so we have barely scratched the surface here. Check out our online Polymers in Packaging course to learn much more!

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