All about Polyethylene (PE)

Polyethylene is a material known for its toughness and flexibility. Polyethylene is also 100% recyclable. Polythene also has the special characteristic that it can hardly be affected by chemicals. Bacteria and other dirt hardly adhere to polyethylene.

What kind of material is polythene?

The material polyethylene is also known as polyethene or PE. The material may call itself the most widely used plastic in the world, thanks to its unique properties and favourable price-quality ratio. Polyethylene is a popular choice in many different industries and has many different applications. There are many different subtypes of the material polyethylene, each with its own designation. Some of these subtypes are known by different abbreviations. Below is a table showing the different types of polyethylene and their different designations.

Type Material Abbreviation
Main type Polyethylene, polyethylene PE
Subtype High Density Polyethylene HDPE
Subtype Low Density Polyethylene LDPE
Subtype Lineair Low Density Polyethylene LLDPE
Subtype High Molecular Polyethylene HMPE 500
Subtype Ultra High Molecular Polyethylene HMPE 1000, UHMPE

Polyethylene is the generic name of this material. Polyethylene has a number of subtypes that have distinctive properties thanks to their molecular density, linearity or molecular weight. High molecular density provides the impact-resistance and rigidity in PE. You stretch it less easily and it can take a beating.

On the other hand, LDPE, with its low molecular density, is more flexible and softer. LLDPE has a special structural structure. The monomers have shorter branches and therefore have a linear structure in the polymer in which they can slide past each other. LLDPE owes its flexibility to this. You can keep stretching it without breaking it.

The PE types with high molecular density have molecules with a relatively high weight. They are much harder and HDPE is more wear-resistant thanks to this molecular density. HMPE 1000 is even harder compared to the HMPE 500 variant. Its molecular density is even higher.

Ordering customised polyethylene

Order your polyethylene sheets easily and quickly online. Your order is immediately sawn or milled to size and delivered to you as quickly as possible. - plastic shapes
Plastic circle cut to size

The advantages of polyethylene

Polyethylene has many advantages, below we have listed the 10 most important properties for you.

  • Easy to process
  • Recyclable
  • Tough and flexible
  • Impact and wear-resistant
  • High electrical resistance
  • Affordable
  • Dirt and bacteria do not adhere
  • Tasteless and odourless
  • Damp-proof
  • Wide operating temperature range (-50 up to 80 °C)

An indestructible material

The polyethylene we offer is high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Thanks to this relatively high density, the material is tough, impact-resistant and wear-resistant. Polyethylene is also highly resistant to chemicals. Polyethylene is also frost-resistant. This makes it a popular material in the food industry.

All about Polyethylene (PE)

All about Polyethylene (PE)

What is polythene often used for?

Polyethylene is often used in wet conditions such as tanks and other outdoor applications. This material is favoured for its good hygienic cleanability and long service life. Common applications of polyethylene include:

  • Pipe systems
  • Toys and appliances
  • Packaging
  • Pallets
  • Waste containers
  • Crates
  • Cutting boards
All about Polyethylene (PE)

All about Polyethylene (PE)

Technical properties of Polyethylene

Polyethylene is a flexible material. It stretches and yields without breaking. This is demonstrated well in toys, which have to endure a lot. However, if you break the surface of the plastic, there is a risk of tearing.

In the world of water applications, polyethylene is particularly common. Think of a lifejacket or a buoy. Dirt and bacteria have a hard time adhering to this material, and it can also withstand many chemical substances.

A feature to consider is its UV resistance. Polyethylene, especially the white-coloured variety, is sensitive to UV light. It can discolour and become somewhat brittle.

Read more about the different properties of polyethylene here.

Colour Black
Surface finishing Smooth
Durability Recyclable
UV-resistant Yes
Operating temperature -50 up to 80 °C
Moisture proof Yes
Fire class B2
Density 0.95 g/cm³
Modulus of elasticity 800 MPa
Tensile strength 23 MPa
Max. elastic elongation 9%
Impact resistance 20 Kj/m²
Hardness 64 Shore D
Thermal expansion mm/m/10 °C

Processing possibilities of polyethylene

One of the most important properties of polyethylene is that it is a thermoplastic. This means that when you heat polyethylene, the material softens. This makes polyethylene easy to process.

The material polyethylene is therefore suitable for a wide variety of applications. You can even weld the material: for example, water and gas pipes. However, polyethylene cannot be stickered or glued because of its property, that it hardly adheres.

  • Bending (warm)
  • Drilling
  • Milling
  • Sawing (circular saw)
  • Sawing (jigsaw)
  • Turning
  • Welding
  • Bending (cold)
  • Coating
  • Cutting
  • Engraving
  • Glueing
  • Lasering
  • Lettering
  • Painting
  • Polishing
  • Water cutting

How is polyethylene made?

Polyethylene comes from petroleum. The carbon compounds in it form chains of polymers. These polymers become organised next to each other, this is called crystalline. Granules are made from these polymers, which are then melted and processed into sheets.

All about Polyethylene (PE)

Toxicity and environmental impact

Polyethylene is a durable material that needs to be handled with care. In fact, due to its long lifespan, it is harmful if it ends up in nature. It is therefore important to recycle the material at the end of its life. HDPE can therefore be 100% recycled.