Why food safe HDPE plastic replaced glass as the go-to milk container.
Many of you, should you be older than 60, may remember the “Milk Man”. This delivery service from decades ago, was a most common way of transporting milk to the consumer. Back then, suppliers used glass bottles, delivered by this milk man, right to your front door.
HDPE is Food Safe
When looking at alternatives, the milk processing industry found a use and benefit from replacing the glass with a plastic called High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). But what is HDPE, and what are the benefits of using it?
Glass is heavy, HDPE plastic is light
One of the characteristics of this thermoplastic is the weight of the material. The reason this is so beneficial brings us back to the milk jug. Old style glass milk containers could hold 32 oz., with the empty glass weighing 1.25 lbs. An empty gallon water or milk jug (128 oz.) weighs in at only 0.25 lbs, and holds 4 times more volume. When full, the milk jug can hold more volume than the glass bottle without compromising the strength, especially when being transported. This lowers the overall transport time and significantly reduces the cost of shipping.
This drop in weight and large increase in capacity is why the industry made the switch. The attribute of high durability in plastic materials like HDPE is known as the “strength to weight ratio”. As already mentioned, this was a huge benefit from switching to HDPE containers – the impact it has on transport costs. The high impact resistance of the material allows for easy transport. The HDPE jugs can withstand the jarring and bumping that is a natural part of mass transit, with almost zero wear or breakage to the product. Compared to the glass bottle, too hard of a turn or a pothole in the road could lead to the disheartening sound of shattering glass… not an ideal result for the distributing company. The HDPE impact resistance still holds true through out the supply chain, and even when the containers enter a store or home. If a HDPE milk jug should fall, the plastic container may spill, but it won’t cause the harm or damage that glass would. Broken glass poses a hazard and a risk, whereas plastic in this case can be easily cleaned, recycled, and used again.
When discussing this topic, the argument of recycling and sustainability sets its sights on plastics. In reality, the carbon footprint of plastics is much smaller than that of glass. The amount of heat necessary to heat up plastic for recycling is dramatically lower than that of glass, making it more sustainable in the long run. Yes, both are 100% recyclable, but the amount of fuel necessary plays a big factor. The temperature needed for melting and processing HDPE is between 248 and 356°F depending on grade. Whereas glass requires a minimum temperature of 2,600°F, according to SeattlePI. As you can see, these temperatures are very different, and shows why the life cycle of plastic is more eco-friendly and a better option to preserve our environment.
Immensely versatile HDPE applications
HDPE has many more uses, like in structural tanks, FDA approved cutting boards and industrial piping systems. This material outweighs most alternatives in benefits due to it’s cost and performance, and is produced in sheet and rod by many major manufacturers in the USA. HDPE plastics are FDA and NSF approved for food applications, making HDPE a food safe product for most food processing and packing applications. For more details on HDPE and it’s benefits see Industrial Plastic Supply or call 866-832-9315
What other applications could benefit from newer and improved materials to make our world safer, cleaner and more efficient?
Yes, UV Resistant Recycled Plastic Lumber lasts and lasts
What happens to your ‘blue recycled trash’ materials? A common question regarding recycling is, ‘Does It Work’?
The answer is ‘YES’ it certainly works.
One of the most recycled plastic materials is HDPE. This is the material that laundry detergent bottles, milk jugs, opaque vitamin bottles and many more common household containers are made from. The HDPE is a FDA and NSF approved resin, and is the go to material for cutting boards, margarine containers, food storage containers, and many of your milky colored drinking cups.
So, what happens to these items after you put them into your recycle bin?
Your local recycling center sorts through your clean recyclables and segregates the materials by the type of plastic. HDPE has the recycle code of #2, and this can be found on the bottom of many of your plastic items. The other plastic items are sorted out based on the recycle number and type of material. This allows for better and more efficient reprocessing of these resins into new and re-purposed items.
The reprocessing of plastic scrap or discarded post consumer products generated a large quantity of plastic material. The HDPE recycling market is a fast growing area of the recycled plastic sector. The other common plastic that is recycled is PET, which has the code of #1, and this is the very clear water bottles and soda bottle material.
Once the discarded containers and other HDPE scraps are collected, they are sent to a recycle plant. This is where the containers are cleaned, sent to the grinder, and converted into small pieces that can be used in the manufacture of new products. This reprocessing of post consumer goods into a usable plastic lumber is the first step in the recycling process. Much later, after the very long life of the HDPE recycled lumber is over, it can be again reprocessed into another recycled HDPE product, maybe even another piece of HDPE plastic lumber. The cycle of using an already produced plastic product, and then reusing, recycling or re-purposing this material is as environmentally responsible as any consumer can be. This ‘closed loop’ recycling eliminates the use of other natural resources, and cuts the impact on our planet.
In a recent press release, HDPE recycled content from milk jugs, laundry detergent bottles, shampoo bottles and other post consumer content are gathered. Then it is ground to usable sizes, and then reprocessed into Recycled HDPE Plastic Lumber. The only additive are the colorant and a UV stabilizer or UV resistant additive. The material is sent threw an extruded or molding process, and the result is a plastic boards that look like real wood, but will out last any wood product by 5 – 10 times, and not require the maintenance that we know is required with wood lumber. The premium recycled HDPE plastic lumber, made by Bedford Technologies, has a 50 year warranty.
That’s a long time, our UV Resistant Recycled Plastic Lumber will last.
Plastic lumber does not rot, splinter, require paint or sealants annually, nor any other regular maintenance. Perhaps a semi-regular washing down is all that would be needed to have this material continue to look like new.
What are popular items that are made from this recycled HDPE plastic lumber? The limit to uses is only limited by your imagination. Some of the most common HDPE plastic lumber products are: outdoor decks, outdoor furniture, docks for lakes and marinas, trellises, walkways, playground components, parking bumpers, sign posts and many more. All of these items outperform the lumber products previous used for these applications.
Call us for more information on the available sizes and colors of recycles HDPE plastic lumber, 866-832-9315.
Is HDPE Sheet and Acetal Homopolymer Sheet the same?
Here is another popular question asked by our clients. Is HDPE the same as Acetal Copolymer / Delrin Acetal Homopolymer? No, they are two totally different materials. Although the natural color of both is a milky white to opaque white, and they do look a bit similar, they are not. (HDPE is milky white to almost translucent depending on thickness, and the Acetal materials are a more opaque white to slightly milky – once again depending on thickness . See picture below of .500″ thick samples of HDPE and Acetal sheets)
HDPE and Acetal – Some Differences
The HDPE sheet and rod is a softer material, and is commonly known for its FDA certification and used in numerous food applications, such as: one gallon milk jugs, cutting boards, colored water glasses/cups, and many, many more. While it can be machined, because it is a bit softer and lighter, the tolerances it can be machined to are not very tight. It is not bondable, so it makes a great non-stick surface for sticky foods and adhesives.
The Acetal Copolymer and the premium Delrin® Acetal Homopolymer also have FDA certification, and are used heavily in the food processing industry. This material is a more mechanical material and is used in bearing and wear applications, cams, feeder screws, etc. This material is can be machined to tight tolerances, and will wear for long periods without lubrication. Due to its exceptional wear properties, it is not bondable, thus requiring mechanical fastening or threads to assemble. It has a very low water absorption, and you will find it in your toilet tank as the white moving parts in the filler mechanism. It is an extremely popular material for machinists, as it works much like soft brass.
While HDPE Sheet and Acetal Sheet look similar, they perform quite a bit differently.
While both materials are FDA approved, are machinable and can be used to make rigid wear resistant parts, they are two different resins and have drastically different physical properties. Another major difference is in the weight of these items, HDPE sheet and rod material weighs about 35% less than the Acetal sheet and rod material. Please check the data sheets for more information to assist in proper material selection.Acetal Data Sheet and HDPE Sheet Data
Acetal is commonly known as: Delrin Homopolymer Acetal, Tecaform AH,Ensital, Unital, Pomalux, Ultraform and many more.
HDPE is also known as: Ultraethylux,Densetec, Polystone G, Fortiflex, Versadur, Hostalen, and many more.
Next time you are cutting vegetables on your cutting board, the material most likely to be used is Polyethylene. Because it is stain, moisture and odor resistant, Polyethylene is a perfect choice. Other cutting boards made out of wood are more susceptible to bacteria and odors because they lack the properties that Polyethylene sheets offer, such as its chemical resistance and FDA approval for food contact. Polyethylene is a very durable and lightweight material that comes in many forms and is a great for a wide variety of applications.
NSF Approved Cutting Boards
The HDPE is available in .500″ thick in several FDA / NSF approved colors, and is great for use in kitchens where cross contamination is a problem.
The Ultimate Cutting Board
Polyethylene has many names. The most common are HDPE, LDPE, and UHMW. The difference has to with the molecular weight and branching which is when a monomer or atom is replaced by a longer chain of polymers (a long repeating chain of atoms). High Density is commonly used for milk jugs and food containers. Low Density is commonly used for bottles and plastic bags. UHMW, which has higher molecular weight (2-6 million) allows for an even transfer over the length of material which makes it stronger and able to be used for bearing applications due to its great wear resistance. Commonly used in the food and dairy industry, UHMW is a great replacement for other materials and solution to many problems. All of these polymers are derived from the same family but all have certain properties that make them a little different. HDPE provides great chemical resistance, with high impact strength and great energy absorption. LDPE has most of the same properties as High Density but is not as dense at 9.15, opposed to HDPE which is 9.34. It also has a lower tensile strength and easier formability.
Food Grade HDPE for cutting boards
UHMW is a strong material that has great durability and low co-efficient making it an ideal for sliding applications. Polyethylene offers a wide range of material choices and properties and has great durability that can be suitable for a number of applications. From the food industry to automotive, the kitchen or the warehouse, whatever your Polyethylene needs are; High Density, Low Density or UHMW, Polyethylene is a great choice.
Typical Resin Properties:
Typical Value HDPE
Typical Value LDPE
Typical Value UHMW
.941 – .965
.91 – .925
.93 – .94
Tensile Strength Yield
3,800 – 5,500
1,400 – 2,000
Izod Impact – Notched
2.0 – 3.5
Vicat Softening Temp
Hardness – Rockwell
D42 – 50
Continuous Use Temp
-100 – 180ºF
Deflection Temp @ 66 psi
Co. Thermal Expansion
Please contact us for more information on FDA and NSF approved plastic materials. Email us here, or call us at: 866-832-9315