Family of a multigenerational home eating dinner together

How Polyethylene Plays a Role in Multigenerational Homes

The needs of modern households have permanently changed due to COVID-19. As of July 2020, 87% of adults age 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age¹ and 52% of young adults reside with one or both of their parents, up from 47% pre-COVID. This creates what is known as a multigenerational home and that style of home includes 20% of the US population according to Pew Research Center.

By Shell Polymers on May 10, 2021

With multiple generations living together, there are differences in values and ideals. Younger generations tend to look for more innovative and sustainable solutions while older generations want to live comfortably and safely. Luckily, these are both things that plastic can help with.

Polyethylene can make a safer home for all

The at-home lifestyle isn’t going anywhere when lockdown orders lift. We know this because 44% of consumers hope to spend more time with their household even after lockdown orders are lifted.2 This opens up possibilities for converters as consumers want their home to be a safe and accommodating place for the multiple generations that live within them.

From a family safety perspective, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) offer a wide variety of benefits. For starters, HDPE is corrosion-resistant and ideal for holding household chemicals.3 This helps multigenerational homes maintain a safe environment for residents. HDPE and LLDPE are also both food-safe materials according to the FDA4 and helps keep food fresher, longer. This minimizes trips to the grocery store and therefore exposure to diseases for any high-risk individuals. Communicating these benefits to consumers will help them feel safe and reassured at home.

Multigenerational households are also likely to host children and elderly residents at the same time. This creates a need to keep things as sanitary as possible. LLDPE is used in the toy industry for its resistance to breaking, staining, and its ability to mimic other materials.5 More importantly for these kinds of homes, LLDPE is easily sanitized which can help protect at-risk members of the household from germs when kids come inside from playing.

Speaking of the outdoors, HDPE is a popular furniture choice because it can withstand a range of temperatures, is moisture-resistant, and has a high tensile strength.6 Similar to LLDPE and toys, HDPE can also be easily sanitized after each use, helping keep the family safe. And while these may seem like trivial characteristics, every bit of safety and protection that can be offered is crucial.

Whether families are in the kitchen, outdoors, or working in the garage, there are always tools that make tasks easier. In many of these cases, polyethylene continues to be used in place of heavier materials like metal or wood. These lighter tools accommodate both younger and older consumers, giving them lighter and easier-to-hold tools. This movement towards multigenerational homes is one that will last a long time, and Shell Polymers wants to help plastic converters and consumers shift into this new normal with ease.

PE and Multigenerational Homes, a Perfect Match

The innovations continuing to populate the PE space are great opportunities for converters as well. According to Markus Schmid of McKinsey, this is a great time for consumer-goods companies to step in:

“When you look at the [elderly consumer segment], they experience one of the greatest disruptions in life—they’re going from professional to private or pension life. That creates a lot of spare time that has to be filled. You will find segments that are very wealthy and that are looking for new ideas to fill, basically, their life. That’s something consumer-goods companies have to think of.”

These different segments of the population require safe products, a standard level of cleanliness, and the continuing push towards a greener future. That’s why Shell Polymers is working to develop a pyrolysis method to more efficiently recycle specific plastics. Brand owners are also moving towards reusable or refillable packages for soap, detergent, and other household goods that will make product refills easier for older consumers and greener as well.

There have also been leaps in PPE innovation due to the pandemic as companies race to create more effective and easy-to-produce protection.7 These include the inflatable plastic vehicle isolation screen that will help elderly and at-risk people go out and about without worry and stay protected from potentially-infected riders.8 Innovations like these will help consumers continue to live comfortably in homes that house grandparents, parents, and children alike. It may be a new normal for us all, but it’s one that Shell Polymers is focused on improving for all involved.

Polymer Trends: How Industry Shifts Will Affect Polyethylene Production

Delve deeper into these industry changes with commentary from our Polymer Pros and Pioneers.

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1 https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/community/info-2018/2018-home-community-preference.html

2 Shell Thought Leadership Territory Exploration, Kantar

3 https://www.beroeinc.com/article/pet-hdpe-cost-savings/

4 https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/types-plastic-food-packaging-safety-close-look/

5 https://www.terracastproducts.com/incredible-facts-linear-low-density-polyethylene

6 https://www.patioproductions.com/blog/news/hdpe-vs-pvc-wicker/

7 https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovations/covid-19-has-designers-reimagining-personal-protective-equipment-180975782/

8 https://www.permali.co.uk/resource/inflatable-plastic-vehicle-isolation-screens-keep-drivers-and-passengers-safer/