What is Polythene?

Though we come in contact with polythene every day, very few people know much about it. In fact, if someone were to say the word, most wouldn’t even know what it is. Polythene is the name for two different kinds of plastics. One comes in the form of garbage bags and shopping bags, while the other is found in more rigid forms, such as lawn chairs and plastic boxes. With a wide range of products, there’s very little that we use that isn’t made from one of these forms of the plastic. If you’re wondering about the differences between the two, wonder no longer. Below is a glance at the two kinds of polythene and what sets them apart.

  • High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) – These plastics tend to be a little thicker than its counterpart, and make up items like folding chairs and tables. One interesting thing is that one of the first things this plastic was used to make was the hula hoop. Durable and reliable, this plastic was discovered recently and we’ve been in love with it since its discovery. It can be recycled, but unfortunately loses a bit of itself during the recycling process. Make sure to check with your local recycling plant before throwing these items into the pinwheel these plastics are becoming more widely accepted as something that can be recycled, some plants still do not accept it.
  • Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) – This is an easy to spot plastic. It makes up most of our shopping and grocery bags, as well as our garbage bags and sandwich bags. It’s also used to make some bottles and a few pieces of common lab equipment. This plastic tends to be a bit more flimsy and not as rigid as the high density variant. Its main purpose is to keep things sealed and safe. Though in the past, many recycling centers did not accept bags and other forms of this plastic, in recent years it’s becoming more and more common for them to be accepted and recycled. It’s extremely important to double check the rules for recycling these bags, as sending them in to a place that doesn’t recycle them will contaminate the collection. Like the high density polyethylene, however, it loses a bit of its quality when it goes through the recycling process.

The good news about both of these plastics is that they have been proven safe to use around food and overall don’t expose us to harmful chemicals. While safety concerns regarding bags and children have always been circulated, there is little risk of getting sick from the bag itself. Because of this, feel free to continue using them to store your food and to keep your important, but sensitive items safe. Remember to save your bags, try to reuse them as often as possible, and when you can, recycle them. Because some programs still don’t accept them as something that can be recycled, try to avoid creating more waste by bringing a tote bag shopping rather than accepting a plastic bag.