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PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) has very good barrier properties against oxygen and carbon dioxide, therefore making it an excellent option for the likes of mineral water bottles. Other applications include food trays for oven use, roasting bags, audio/video tapes etc.

Generally it has good resistance to mineral oils and acids. PET can be recycled into fibres that are used for polyester fabrics.

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) is the high density version of PE plastic. It is harder, stronger and heavier than LDPE, but less ductile.

HDPE is lighter than water, and can be moulded, machined and joined together.

Some types of HDPE can be used in contact with food. It is highly resistant to many acids, alkalis and solvents.

Used in the likes of milk bottles, plastic bag (stiff type that ‘crackles’), bread and beer crates, childrens toys, petrol tanks etc.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is a heavy, stiff, ductile and strong material. PVC has exceptional resistance to acids. PVC has good barrier properties to atmospheric gasses.

Used in the likes of garden hose, electrical wire insulation, vinyl flooring, roof gutters, pipes etc.

PVC is self distinguishing due to the content of chlorine.

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) is the low density version of Polyethylene. It has less hardness, stiffness and strength compared to HDPE, but has better flexibility.

LDPE is used for trays and plastic bags both for food and non food purposes (soft type that does not crackle). Also used for shopping bags, garbage bags, tubes etc.

LDPE has excellent resistance to water, moisture and most organic solvents.

PP (Polypropylene) is an inexpensive, flexible, low strength material with reasonable outdoor performance. In many ways PP is similar to HDPE but is stiffer and melts at 165-170 C.

Used in the likes of flower pots and trays, fuel tanks, suitcases, bins, rope etc. It has exceptional resistance to water, moisture, acid and some solvents.

PS (Polystyrene) is brittle and has low strength, but is hard and stiff. Foamed PS is used for packaging and insulation purposes. It is not weather resistant and therefore not suitable for outdoor use.

Used in the likes of yoghurt pots, CD covers disposable drinking glasses etc.

PS is resistant to water, acids and detergents but will dissolve in most solvents.

The more common others include but are not limited to:

1) ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) generally has good impact strength, it has a reasonable stiffness. If UV stabilisers are adde3d then it can be used for outdoor applications.

Used in the likes of LEGO building blocks, handle for high pressure cleaner, rechargeable shavers and if mixed with PC car components.

ABS is not resistant to other solvents.

2) PC (Polycarbonate) is a distinctive plastic with very high impact strength, good flexibility and fair stiffness. It is very difficult to break and the material is therefore considered fracture proof e.g. bullet proof glass.

If a UV stabilizer is added it has good outdoor resistance but does tend to turn yellow with long exposure to UV.

Used in the likes of CD’s, bullet proof glass, water containers, bus shelters etc.

PC is resistant to oils, fats, and alcohol. Other solvents affectit and hot water reduces its flexibility.

3) PMMA Acrylic (Polymethyl- methacrylate) has excellent optical properties and allows 92% of sunlight to pass. It has exceptional outdoor performance i.e. weather and UV resistance, without reduction of optical or mechanical properties.

Used in the likes of tail light glass, exhibition cases, kitchen scales etc.

PMMA will tolerate weak acids, but not solvents or acetone.

4) PA (Polyamide-Nylon) is a strong, wear resistant barrier plastic. The difference between PA6 and PA12 are the number of carbon atoms between two nitrogen atoms in the molecular chain.

Used in the likes of nylons (stockings), fishing line, rainproof cover, chair wheel casings, Bottle for tomato ketchup (barrier layer), barrier layer for cheese wrap etc.

Nylon has a very good resistance to fuels, oils and solvents but is affected by acids.