Types of Plastics – What is HDPE?

HDPE is one of the many plastic types out there. Before you decide whether or not you want to use this plastic in your packaging, you must understand what it is, and what properties it holds. HDPE is a popular plastic, and it’s commonly used in many packaging materials. So, here’s what you need to know about it:

What is HDPE plastic?

HDPE stands for high-density polyethylene – and it’s one of the most versatile plastics out there right now. It’s only been around for 70 or so years, but you most probably come into contact with it every day. 

This particular plastic is created by bringing together multiple ethylene molecules. As such, you end up with the name poly – which means many – and ethylene. HDPE is the number 2 coded plastic, in the 7 different categories of plastics. It is incredibly tough, but the main draw is that it can be used in both rigid and flexible forms. 

In its rigid form, HDPE is perfect for containers and other hard plastic packaging. In a flexible form, you’ll most likely see it used as bags. 

Why is HDPE a popular plastic?

Well, we’ve already alluded to one reason; its versatility. HDPE can be used in multiple forms, making it very useful in an array of plastic packaging scenarios. But, we’ll talk more about its uses later in this article. For now, let’s look at why so many companies are turning to this plastic: 

  • Extremely strong, yet incredibly light: A unique feature of HDPE plastic is that it is very strong, yet it hardly weighs anything. It punches well above its weight; you can hold a gallon of liquid in just a two-ounce HDPE container. This makes it popular in a range of industries. 


  • Very durable: HDPE isn’t just strong, it’s durable too. This plastic can stand up to a lot of damage and wear and tear. It’s impact-resistant and faces up against adverse weather conditions too. If you have something made out of HDPE, then you know it will last a long time. 


  • Highly malleable: Most plastic possesses this property, and HDPE is one of the best in terms of its flexibility and the ability to move it into lots of different shapes. Again, when you can mold something into lots of designs, then it becomes useful across lots of different sectors. 


  • Mold-resistant: Perhaps one of the reasons HDPE plastic lasts so long is that it is resistant to mold. Consequently, you find it in a lot of outdoors or underground projects. It’s used to make up decking, and it’s used to construct piping. 


As you can see, it’s clear why HDPE is so widely used. It has a diverse range of uses, and companies across a plethora of industries will use it for multiple applications. Thanks to the strength and durability – while remaining lightweight – it is often used as a replacement for older and heavier materials. 

Is HDPE recyclable?

All of the above features are excellent, but is HDPE recyclable? Well, as you’ve probably guessed, it is recyclable. In fact, it’s one of the most widely recycled plastics in the world – mainly thanks to its presence in many different things. 

If you took HDPE products to a recycling center, they’d easily be able to take them off your hands and put them to good use. Plus, almost all kerbside collections now let you recycle HDPE plastic products, which helps prevent a great deal of plastic from entering landfill sights. 

As we mentioned earlier, you’ll know if a product contains HDPE because it has the number 2 on it, surrounded by an arrow. This basically tells you that it can be recycled, so don’t throw it in the trash!

Once recycled, you will most likely see HDPE again as it can easily be used to make a variety of recycled goods. 

What can HDPE be used for?

We’ve already touched upon a few uses earlier, but here are some common products that are made using HDPE:

  • Milk cartons
  • Plastic containers
  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Shampoo bottles
  • Laundry detergent bottles
  • Cereal box liners
  • Bread bags
  • Water pipes
  • Car fuel tanks
  • Playground equipment
  • Plastic lumber decking
  • Trash cans
  • Recycling bins (which are often made out of recycled HDPE)
  • Traffic cones
  • Patio chairs & furniture

The list goes on and on, which further proves the diversity and flexibility of this plastic. With all things considered, HDPE is certainly a plastic to keep your eye on. It provides lots of uses and has the massive benefit of being lightweight, strong, and long-lasting. Plus, it’s easy to recycle, and can then be used to make recycled goods as well.

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