Types of plastic in packaging

Learn more about the different plastic polymers used in packaging.

PET – Polyethylene terephthalate

Commonly used for bottles, trays, and as thin flexible film in pouches and flow wrap applications. It is currently the material that is most readily recycled in the UK with r-PET becoming a popular material option for many specifiers. There are a number of types of PET such as CPET (crystalline PET) and APET (Amorphous PET) which are used for specialised applications. (have link to PET page which gives details on r PET, PET, CPET)

PE – Polyethylene

Used in a variety of formats. Bottles, lids, as a sealing layer in trays, and thin flexible film in pouches and flow wrap applications. HPDE milk bottles are commonly recycled in the UK and the use of rHDPE is increasing. Other PE materials are available for specific applications including LDPE, LLDPE, MDPE.

PP – Polypropylene

Is commonly used in bottles, trays, and as a thin flexible film in pouches and flow wrap applications. It is not currently widely recycled in the UK. It is used commonly for meat trays and for bottles. There are a number of types of PP including OPP, BOPP.

PS – Polystyrene

Is commonly used for pots, particularly yoghurt pots and some vegetable punnets. PS is not commonly recycled in the UK and again can come in a number of formats including EPS.

PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride

Is still used in some applications such as trays and pots. However the UK has generally been moving away from the use of PVC.

PA – (Polyamide or nylon)

Used as parts within trigger sprays and as a flexible film for barrier properties. Not currently recycled. Also found in other formats such as OPA and BOPA.