A versatile material, high-density polyethylene (HDPE Resin) can be processed to create rigid products that need to hold their shape, such as bottles, or polyethylene film-based garbage bags that require less structure. In addition to its versatility, one of HDPE’s most praised characteristics is its resistance to outside chemicals and solvents. This not only makes it ideal for protective film packaging applications, but also toy parts, buckets, rigid pipes, and more.

Learn more about three key sectors that benefit from HDPE's chemical resistance:

1. Construction & Infrastructure

HDPE is commonly used in construction projects and infrastructure installation as a way to cut building costs, reduce repairs and promote material longevity. Those three benefits are helping drive the popularity of HDPE by providing quality materials that resist environmental stress. According to Market Watch, the Global HDPE Pipes Market is expected to reach $14 billion by 2024, with a growth rate of roughly 3.7%1. By leveraging HDPE, organizations conducting construction projects can reduce the frequency of required maintenance, saving time and money.

Advantages for Construction

Plastic is one of the most cost- efficient construction materials for the long, high quality life cycle they ensure. In fact, 20% of all plastic produced is used in construction – the second largest application for this material, higher than its use in vehicles or electronic equipment.2 HDPE pipes are corrosion-resistant and recyclable, so they’re seen as an effective replacement to various metal pipes. HDPE pipes are also leak-free, lightweight, require less energy to make, and are preferred over traditional metal pipes, which are heavy and are more prone to cracking.

According to the Plastic Pipe Institute., “Polyethylene (PE) pipe's unique characteristics have made it the product of choice for numerous applications in the mining industry. It is a proven product in rugged terrains, extreme climates, and changing site environments. Heat-fused joints create a monolithic structure that allows long lengths of pipe to be pulled from one area to another. PE pipe's flexibility, abrasion resistance and leak-free joints have helped the product prove itself long-term in demanding environments.”3

In a sector with project costs that often creep up after the design process and strain allocated funds, polyethylene helps from an economic standpoint because it has a long service life. The lightweight aspect means pipes can be built to longer lengths and require less equipment to install. In addition, lighter materials result in more transportation space per truckload and less fuel consumption.

HDPE Chemical Resistance in A Variety Of Applications

HDPE plastic is resistant to strong acids and bases, reducing agents, and gentle oxidants, which makes it ideal for helping to create cleaner public spaces and more durable infrastructures. For example, public bathroom stalls can be cut from a single piece of extruded HDPE, which naturally combats corrosion, and will not discolor in high moisture environments. The textured surface of HDPE is also resistant to scratches, dents, graffiti, and is easy to clean.

2. Home and Personal Care

According to Forbes, the packaging industry for consumer product goods, which includes personal care and beauty products, generates more than $25 billion in sales worldwide each year.4 Due to the protection it provides against chemicals and outside contaminants, HDPE makes an excellent polymer packaging choice for cosmetics. HDPE is a durable, versatile material that accommodates a variety of container designs and better maintains its structural integrity through distribution. HDPE is also preferred for personal care products because it has high rigidity, long shelf life, and reliable barrier properties.5

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Longevity for Personal Care Products

HDPE’s chemical resistance is especially beneficial when it comes to increasing the longevity of home and personal care products. The application is commonly used in products such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and body wash. 

For example, a cosmetics package manufacturer recently released a cosmetic tube that protects sensitive products such as natural skincare serums and creams from any harmful elements, preventing cosmetic products from excessive exposure to moisture present in the air. This way, the tube increases the shelf life of cosmetics by 60%.6

Learn more about The Role of Polyethylene Packaging in Consumer Health and Hygiene

Promoting Safety With Household Cleaning

HDPE withstands exposure to chemicals without corroding, making it ideal to household and industrial chemicals, such as:

  • laundry detergent
  • bleach
  • antifreeze
  • gasoline

In addition, its effectiveness can be strengthened once colored or pigmented. HDPE bottles also promote household container safety by preventing leaks and withstanding temperatures of up to 248 degrees Fahrenheit for a short time or 230 degrees for longer periods.7

3. Education

HDPE offers schools long-lasting and sanitary surfaces for faculty and students. As enforcing hygiene standards at school goes into overdrive, efficiency and ease of cleaning is critical for custodial staff. Solid plastic lockers made from HDPE are virtually impermeable to moisture, mold, mildew, rust, and odors, lasting for years without showing age. HDPE lockers are bacteria-resistant and can be power washed or steam cleaned8 to keep them from showing wear-and-tear too quickly.

HDPE can also be used to make durable, affordable chairs and other furniture that is built without crevices for contaminants to collect9 and is resistant to consistent exposure to cleaning solutions, water, acids, and other chemicals. This allows school staff to keep surfaces reliably clean, reducing the risk of spreading infection.

No matter the industry, HDPE will continue to create products with reliable resistance to harmful chemicals and contaminants that hold up over the long term and promote safety. The Shell Polymers’ team of Polymer Experts is committed to uncovering how HDPE can most effectively be created and leveraged to provide converters and brand owners with the information they need to construct long-lasting products and materials.

Learn how Shell’s Polymer Experts Support Customers with Industry Expertise

1 https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/hdpe-pipes-market-2020-top-countries-data-market-size-defination-brief-analysis-of-global-industry-with-forecast-growth-by-2024-2020-08-06
2 https://www.modernbuildingalliance.eu/environmental-sustainability-plastics-construction/
3 https://plasticpipe.org/municipal_pipe/mid-mining.html
4 https://www.forbes.com/sites/kaleighmoore/2019/06/11/new-ways-the-beauty-industry-is-testing--sustainable-practices/#36092b69eb55
5 https://www.beroeinc.com/article/pet-hdpe-cost-savings/
6 https://www.cosmetic-tubes.com/
7 https://www.calpaclab.com/hdpe/
8 https://continuingeducation.bnpmedia.com/courses/scranton-products/school-hallway-lockers-made-of-highdensity-polyethylene-hdpe/2/
9 https://www.norix.com/durable-furniture-5-advantages-of-polyethylene-furniture-in-your-intensive-use-environment/