Types of Plastic – What is LDPE

If you’re looking at the prospect of purchasing plastic materials to be used within your business operations, it’s essential to educate yourself on the different options as well as their properties and functions. LDPE plastic is one solution that you’ll almost certainly have heard about at some stage, and here’s all you need to know about the product.

What is LDPE plastic? 

LDPE is an acronym that stands for Low-Density Polyethylene, and the plastic was first produced in 1933 Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). It is used in a range of industries for a wide variety of products ranging from corrosion-resistant work surfaces to playground slides or even bulletproof vests. Primarily, though, LDPE materials are used for plastic bags, containers, and packaging. 

The term LDPE is largely defined by its density range, which sits between 0.917–0.930 g/cm3. As with all types of Polyethylene (PE) it is a lightweight synthetic resin made from the polymerisation of ethylene and a crystalline non-polar thermoplastic that can be melted and reshaped with ease.

In 2017, the industry was valued at $31bn, and is expected to climb to $39bn by 2023, showing annual gains of 4%.

Why is it chosen for pharmaceutical packaging? 

LDPE is a very popular choice for pharmaceutical packaging, and is deemed the preferred choice for pharmacies up and down the country. In truth, there are many reasons for this. The list includes but is not limited to:

  • The material is not reactive at room temperatures. 
  • It can safely be kept at temperatures of 80 degrees Celsius, or even 90 degrees for short spaces of time.
  • It is highly resistant to acids, alcohols, bases or esters.
  • It has good resistance against aldehydes and ketones.
  • The low density allows the material to break down with greater ease over time, offering a greater surface area.
  • LDPE can be heavily recycled.
  • It is a non-toxic, non-contaminating material that’s resistant to moisture and impact, boasting great toughness.
  • It can be made either transparent or opaque, offering privacy where needed.

LDPE is also a readily available packaging material that is affordable and can be produced in a range of bag sizes for storage of various pharmaceutical goods, ensuring that it will remain one of the most popular solutions for a long time to come.

What is the difference between LDPE Vs HDPE?

Both types of PE material are ultimately defined by the density range, with HDPE boasting rates of 930-970 kg/m3. HDPE is harder and melts at a higher temperature, making it less practical in some packaging areas while also ensuring that it is tougher to recycle in an efficient manner.

Many of the HDPE properties, such as the higher resistance, aren’t really needed for pharmaceutical industries. For example, the resistance against ultraviolet rays is a little futile. At the additional cost, it is far more practical for pharmaceutical companies to choose LDPE materials over their HDPE counterparts. 

HDPE is less malleable and flexible than LDPE too. So, while it is suitable for a host of purposes, pharmaceutical packaging is not one of them. LDPE is the answer.