Different Forms of Polyethylene Film

Polyethylene film is a popular choice due to its thin yet durable composition. Plastic film can be made from a variety of polyethylene resins, including Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE), and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), along with other types of plastic such as Polypropylene (PP) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC).

Polyethylene (PE) film is one of the most popular choices for applications such as food packaging, plastic bags, and electronics packaging. This is due to its strength, protective qualities, and cost-effectiveness.

HDPE is one of the most widely used polymers, with applications across converting processes. It’s a strong and stiff material, making it a solid choice for extrusion film applications such as garbage bags, grocery bags, and industrial liners.

Often categorized with LDPE due to similar qualities, LLDPE is another polymer used to make polyethylene film products. While LDPE and LLDPE share characteristics, LLDPE has a few unique traits that set it apart - such as a higher tensile and impact strength, as well as heat sealability. This makes LLDPE the ideal choice for a product like stretch wrap. In fact, around 80% of LLDPE goes into film applications such as food and non-food packaging, shrink or stretch film and non-packaging uses.1

Benefits of HDPE and LLDPE Film

While HDPE and LLDPE film are both part of the polyethylene family, the materials both provide plastic converters with specific benefits that make them ideal for different applications.

For example, HDPE is well known for the following benefits when used as a film:

  • Moisture and chemical resistance — HDPE has a high compatibility rating with most chemicals, is resistant to strong acids and bases, and reduces the moisture transmission rate.
  • High material strength — HDPE’s high tensile strength helps it withstand extreme stress and hold quantities higher than its weight.2
  • Affordable and reusable — HDPE is considered a more affordable option for consumer goods packaging as it can deliver higher quantities of goods in less material than aluminum, steel, or glass.3
  • These qualities make it ideal for applications such as deep-freezer bags, liquid packaging for household chemical products like detergents and cleaning supplies.

On the other hand, LLDPE is well known for qualities such as:

  • Resistance to acids and oils — Much like HDPE, LLDPE has a high compatibility rating with most chemicals, acids, bases, and oils as well, keeping the goods inside safe.4
  • Better appearance — Since LLDPE is transparent and glossy, it is often chosen for consumer goods because it allows the product to shine.5 Flexibility and transparency
  • Resistance to environmental stress cracking
  • High puncture and impact resistance — Due to LLDPE’s higher tensile strength, it is more impact and puncture resistant than LDPE. This helps converters make thinner films without sacrificing strength.6

With its high-resistance to breaking and outside contaminants, LLDPE is often used for protective packaging, such as shrink or stretch films for food packaging.

Dan Falla

Meet Our Pro

Meet our Polyethylene Film Expert

Meet our Polymer expert, Senior Technical Service Engineer, Dan Falla. Dan has spent more than 30 years helping customers to innovate in new product and application development and is Membership Chair for the Society of Plastics Engineers’ Flexible Packaging Division. Read about Dan’s experience and get his top four polyethylene film tips including ways to unlock cost and performance benefits.

Advantages of Choosing Polyethylene Film

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),7 approximately 50% of the 35 million tons of PE resin produced is used to make plastic film. North American, western European and Asian markets each consume approximately 25–30% of the PE film produced globally. Popular film applications include carrier bags, sandwich bags, freezer bags and cling wrap, and horticultural uses include irrigation pipes and field liners.

A major reason for that popularity is the strength of plastic film. In fact, it can be made to be as strong as steel.8 That kind of durability keeps food and fragile goods safe from the dangers associated with production and shipping. It’s also a customizable material, coming in whatever shape, size, or visual is required. This kind of flexibility lets brand owners tailor the packaging to their specific needs and objectives.

One of the key benefits of leveraging flexible plastic film packaging is its ability to lightweight products. A study found that alternatives like paperboard, glass, steel, and rubber were 4.5 times heavier on average.9 These alternatives require more material output to create the same packaging as polyethylene film. For example, traditional glass or hard plastic packaging can be heavy, costing companies extra to transport and have a higher risk of breaking. Flexible plastic packaging made of PE is cheaper to produce, less likely to be damaged in transport, and can be heat sealed to help preserve the shelf life of perishable products.

With the coronavirus pandemic enhancing consumer focus on hygiene, flexible plastic packaging is expected to increase in areas like grocery and household supplies as single-use packaging yields sanitation benefits and protects food and products from outside contaminants10 Both HDPE and LLDPE are both strong and chemical, oil, grease, and moisture resistant, making it a top choice for creating flexible polyethylene packaging.

Discover More From Shell Polymers

1 https://www.icis.com/explore/resources/news/2007/11/06/9076161/polyethylene-linear-low-density-lldpe-uses-and-market-data/
https://www.plasticpackagingfacts.org/plastic-packaging/resins-types-of-packaging/
https://www.plasticpackagingfacts.org/plastic-packaging/resins-types-of-packaging/
https://www.icis.com/explore/resources/news/2007/11/06/9076161/polyethylene-linear-low-density-lldpe-uses-and-market-data/
https://www.blueridgefilms.com/lldpe_properties.html
https://www.icis.com/explore/resources/news/2007/11/06/9076161/polyethylene-linear-low-density-lldpe-uses-and-market-data/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873019/
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/making-plastic-as-strong/
https://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Education-Resources/Publications/Impact-of-Plastics-Packaging.pdf
10 https://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Education-Resources/Publications/Impact-of-Plastics-Packaging.pdf