Advantages of HDPE plastic: the firm market bet for 2026
High Density Polyethylene , commonly known as HDPE, is a widespread material used to produce packaging and many products with a great variety of characteristics. It has become one of the most widely used materials worldwide, and its demand is expected to be highly increased in the coming years.
What is High Density Polyethylene or HDPE?
High density polyethylene is an petroleum-based thermoplastic polymer obtained by adding different units of ethylene. Its molecules have little branches, having great strength and hardness due to its molecular density. This id, in fact, the main difference between HDPE and LDPE.
HDPE is a material which is very resistant to impacts and temperatures either high or low temperatures. Besides, it is resistant to acids and solvent.
One of its main features is that it is a very opaque and colourless material and it is very easy to customize This is why is one of the most used materials in the packaging industry.
In addition, the fact that can be 100% recyclable is the great advantage of high density polyethylene (HDPE). This is the reason why many brands choose it to manufacture their packaging today, as it contributes to a circular economy.
Its applications in such wide and varied sectors, makes it estimate a high continuous growth of its demand. HDPE can be used for the manufacture of bottles, bottles, plugs, cans, communications cables, bags, furniture, pipes, etc. When it is combined with other materials it is also used in the food, medical, automotive and even in buildings and many other sectors nowadays.
Trends in today’s plastics market
Since the beginning of the plastics processing industry, its use has spread exponentially to become today a material that we could hardly live without. In the last 10 years, the applications of plastic have been so many and in so many different sectors, which is considered one of the most widespread thermoplastics in our society.
However, a lot of movements have emerged against it, demonising plastics as a whole and pointing at it as the source of one of the main problems of the 21st century society, the climate change.
In fact, plastic is not the source of these problems, at least not the only one. We have to look at the behaviour of consumers and also the poor waste management systems. The plastics industry has been in a constant race for years to find new formulas and technologies capable of becoming less and less harmful to the environment.
If we look at this trend, taking into account the characteristics of the most demanded and used plastic worldwide, HDPE, and its recyclability,it is difficult to identify the real cause of the problem.
Many companies and governments have decided to start restricting the use of plastic, specially the single-use ones, and replacing it with other materials, but the idea of living in a world without plastic is still unrealistic. We just have to have a look around to see the amount of products and thigs that we use every day and that somehow incorporate some kind of plastic.
One of the problems might be single-use plastics that end up polluting land and seas but, are we ready to improve our waste management systems as well? Are we all ready to stop our “use and throw culture”? Are we ready to stop buying things, using them and throwing them away?
In this sense, high density polyethylene is a material that could still fit in this new scenery. However, a need for greater public awareness of the use of this plastic material and waste management systems is essential.
As mentioned above, one of the advantages of high density polyethylene is the fact that it is recyclable. This means that it is a material that can easily be used in a second life with mechanical or thermal recycling, thus preventing it from polluting the environment and contributing back to the economy.
The plastics industry is also already using new formulas to avoid the use of those plastics that are not recyclable or to make them become recyclable, other work to find the way to make this material biodegradable.
Consumption of plastic packaging in Spain
Spain ranks fourth among the countries of Europe that consume the most plastics. Although the final use sectors of plastic are very different, the main ones are packaging, automotive and construction.
Up to 42% of the total amount of plastic consumed in Spain is used in the packaging activities. The automotive sector uses about 22% and construction, 15% of the total amount of plastic, to make doors, windows, frames, pipes, piping systems…
In these sectors, we also expect growth in the use of plastic due to the wide variety of opportunities it offers, although it should be noted that legislative requirements are and will be increasingly stringent in everything that affects the environment and health.
It is also important to mention that, in recent years, we get a glimpse of some changes in the behaviour of Spanish consumers of products made of plastic. In our country, recycling of plastic packaging has increased, for example, by up to 8% more than last year, Spain being one of the European countries that recycles the most plastic household packaging.
What differences we find between HDPE, PET and PVC
In order to meet the demands of a diverse and demanding market, the plastics processing industry offers several types of plastic. The most frequently used are HDPE, PET and PVC among the 7 types identified with the recycling icon:
PET is a strong, lightweight and transparent material, and is mainly used in the food industry due to its barrier properties against water vapour, gases, alcohols and oils, among others. In fact, PET is often associated with beverage packaging. It is a resistant material, although somewhat flexible, and one of its great advantages, like HDPE, is its recyclability.
Polyvinyl chloride or PVC is one of the most versatile plastics and its production only depends on oil at just under 50% of its weight. It is a material used in long-lasting products, and only 12% is used for single-use products. PVC is lightweight, versatile and is obtained by polymerizing vinyl chloride. In addition, its good value – price makes it one of the most used materials in the water pipes industry.
PVC is the third most widely used plastic, however, HDPE is the first one worldwide. Although PVC is heavier and stronger, HDPE shows a better behavior under extreme temperatures, either high or low.
In short, HDPE or high density polyethylene is one of the most used and demanded materials in recent years and it can hardly be replaced. Depending on the applications we will be able to find more convenient the use of other types, as mentioned above.
It is obvious that the development of recyclability of plastics is experiencing a clear growth and together with adequate awareness of society, can bring great benefits to all sectors of the economy.