Different Types Of Plastic Packaging Explained

Posted on July 23, 2020

types of plastic packagingPlastic is a highly efficient material for use in packaging. It’s strong, durable, resistant, as well as extremely lightweight and cheap to produce. This means it has long overtaken other more traditional packaging materials, such as glass, wood, fabric, paper, and metal. For example, it takes just two pounds of plastic to transport ten gallons of liquid compared with either 40 pounds of glass or four pounds of metal (aluminum) to do the same job.

Not all plastics are created equally, and some are better suited to a certain type of packaging than others. Here are the most commonly used types of plastic packaging and their typical applications.

Different Types of Plastic Packaging

Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

This material is resistant to oils, acids, and bases. It’s tough, flexible, and has good transparency.

Common uses include:

  • Packaging that requires heat sealing
  • Garbage bags
  • Coatings on beverage cups and cartons
  • Stretch film and shrink wrap
  • Squeezy condiment bottles
  • Fresh and frozen produce bags
  • Flexible lids
  • Wires and cables

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

The most widely used plastic for packaging. It’s translucent, tough and chemical and solvent resistant.

Common uses include:

  • Bottles for beverages and liquids
  • Cosmetic bottles such as shampoo and conditioner
  • Domestic cleaning containers
  • Grocery bags
  • Liners for cereal boxes

The disadvantages of both types of polyethylene are that they take large amounts of energy to produce. Furthermore, the material takes a long time to degrade, and recycling can be complex and costly, making the successful disposal of the material difficult.

Polypropylene (PP)

High melting point, chemical resistant with low moisture transmission.

Common uses include:

  • Medicine bottles
  • Syrup bottles
  • Yogurt containers
  • Take-out and deli food containers
  • Bottle closures and caps

Polypropylene is broken down by UV light and is, therefore, unsuitable for use in places with high levels of UV rays. Its surface is also unsuitable for painting, so it cannot easily be printed upon.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE)

Great moisture and gas barrier properties, shatter-resistant, smooth, and optically clear.

Common uses include:

  • Soft drinks bottles
  • Juice, beer, and other beverage bottles
  • Food jars for condiments and jelly
  • Microwave meal trays

This type of plastic has a low heat resistance making it unsuitable for packaging some types of liquid. It also doesn’t degrade, making it a bad plastic for the environment.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC, Vinyl)

Very physically stable, resistant to oil and chemicals. Strong with fantastic clarity.

Common uses include:

  • Clamshells
  • Blister packs
  • Shrinkwrap for medical uses
  • Deli and meat packaging

There are concerns that the by-products of manufacturing PVC are toxic to humans. It is also the least environmentally friendly type of plastic.


Can be foamed or rigid and has a high melting point. Stiff with insulating properties, it provides a moisture barrier.

Common uses include:

  • Single-use cutlery, plates, and cups
  • Meat and poultry trays
  • Yogurt containers
  • Clamshell take-out containers
  • Protective packaging for electrical and delicate goods

This type of plastic is brittle, and UV light degrades the material. Additionally, it is highly flammable, making it unsafe for use in certain industries.

PETG (Copolymer Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol)

Highly transparent and glossy, tough, resistant, and economical to produce. It is also fully recyclable and does not contain BPA.

Common uses include:

  • Pharmaceutical and medical tubes
  • Cosmetic containers
  • Blister packs for tools and stationary
  • Food and electronics packaging

This type of plastic has the lowest number of disadvantages. The main thing to watch out for is that the material can suffer from heat degradation.

CAB (Cellulose Acetate Butyrate)

Tough, rigid, and strong, heat resistant with a high-gloss surface.

Common uses include:

CAP (Cellulose Acetate Propionate)

Tough, rigid, and strong, heat resistant with a high-gloss surface. It can be clear, translucent, or colored.

Common uses include:

  • Tubes for candy, toys, cosmetics and craft materials
  • POP (point-of-purchase) display items
  • Other tube-style packages

Both types of cellulose-based plastics have poor solvent and alkaline resistance, making them unsuitable for use with certain liquids. They are also flammable.

Once you begin to understand the different varieties of plastic, you can better recognize the different types of plastic packaging and the applications to which they are best suited. If you’re looking to purchase plastic packaging for your products, it’s crucial to research thoroughly to ensure you select the correct plastic for your needs.

Order Today At Petro Packaging Company

At Petro Packaging Company Inc, we have over four decades of experience behind us. We specialize in producing PETG, CAB, and CAP plastics and can be relied upon to tell you if these are the best types of plastic for your requirements.

If you would like some advice or wish to find out more about the varieties of plastic we offer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today. We’ll be happy to share our knowledge with you.