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COVID-19, Re-Thinking How We Use Plastics in the Packaging Industry

Learn about the main packaging polymers and suppliers from Amco Polymers

Plastic packaging is part of our everyday lives. When you pick up groceries in the freezer aisle, you will find plastic wrapped items, sealed for freshness. When you clean your home, you most likely reach for a bottle of some kind of sanitizer encased in, you guessed it, plastic.

On critical fronts, such as the medical sector, plastic packaging has life-saving effects. Single-use syringes and other devices come wrapped in plastic to provide safe, sterile transport and storage. COVID-19 has only increased the public demand for such plastic packaging options. With a heightened awareness of disease control and sanitation measures, people are looking to packaging and single-use items as a means to stop the spread and maintain health strictures.

During this time, we at Amco Polymers have stayed agile and available to respond to the needs of the market. Our close ties with industry-leading polymer suppliers allow us to provide the best resins for premium plastic packaging applications. Our team of specialists works closely with our customers to deliver durable polymers formulated to specification.

In this blog, we take a closer look at the plastic packaging industry, the sectors it serves, and the most common polymers you use every day to keep you safe, healthy, and thriving.

Plastic Packaging by Industry

The plastic packaging industry has a range and depth of applications that serve every consumer household around the world. From critical healthcare applications such as single-use syringes to food-safe, pre-packaged frozen peas in your grocery store, plastic packaging enhances our lives and contributes significantly to innovations in society’s lifestyle.

Take a look at the applications and properties of plastic packaging industry-by-industry.

Plastic Packaging by Industry

The plastic packaging industry has a range and depth of applications that serve every consumer household around the world. From critical healthcare applications such as single-use syringes to food-safe, pre-packaged frozen peas in your grocery store, plastic packaging enhances our lives and contributes significantly to innovations in society’s lifestyle.

Take a look at the applications and properties of plastic packaging industry-by-industry.


Healthcare Packaging

Healthcare innovations are always constant. With the rise of the novel COVID-19 virus, the demand for single-use instruments and medical devices has risen astronomically, especially for masks and respirators. One of the key properties that plastic packaging plays in medical instrumentation and devices is sterility and cleanliness. It reduces the risk of spreading bacterial, viral or other contaminants. Other key properties include the following:

  • Clarity
  • Adaptable
  • Moisture resistant
  • Chemical resistant
  • Biocompatible
  • Meet stringent pharmaceutical and medical regulations
  • Easily ship and store drugs, devices, and medical instrumentation

As we continue to meet the challenges of the medical industry and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, plastic packaging will play a key role in ensuring safe, sterile, and adaptable methods for medical devices and instrumentation. Applications include vials, caps, bottles, pouches, bags, trays, overwrap, and much more.



Food & Beverage Packaging

Did you know that cellophane wrap has been around the kitchen since the early 1900s? It was an innovation in food and beverage production as the first, fully flexible, water-impermeable wrap. Since then, packaging for food and beverages has played an integral role in smart packaging solutions. The main reason for plastics in food and beverage applications is for protection and increased shelf-life of your munchies. Other properties include the following:

  • Clarity
  • Withstands extreme temperatures
  • Moisture resistant
  • Chemical resistant
  • Durable
  • FDA approved for food and beverage contact
  • Economical

Plastic packaging allows for airtight freshness, keeps edibles safe and sanitized, freezer safe, and safely ships products from farm-to-table. Among its many applications including bottles, bags, containers, tableware, and wrapping.



Consumer Packaged Goods

Due to the versatility of plastics and the variety of polymers available, consumer packaged goods take many shapes and forms. This variety allows brands and businesses to set their product apart on the shelf. Additionally, plastic packaging can be molded and formed to increase the amount of product available to the consumer while decreasing packaging. Thus, plastic packaging conserves resources and provides efficiency. Other properties include:

  • Lightweight
  • Strong & durable
  • Different processing techniques: mold, extrusion, cast, blown
  • Cosmetic looks: color, weight, size, shape, utility, printing, protection
  • Design versatility


Cosmetic & Personal Care Packaging

There is no industry that values design and functionality more than the cosmetics industry. With plastic packaging, these industries have limitless options for containing and distributing their products and materials. It is also important to note that plastics for cosmetics are highly chemical resistant. They are formulated to maintain the integrity of material as well as not disintegrate with contact. That is the beauty of polymers. Other properties include the following:

  • Durable
  • Good tensile strength
  • Single-use for less contamination
  • Design efficiency and diversity
  • Lightweight
  • Safe and secure delivery from shelf to consumer
  • Improved shelf-life
  • Flexible

Cosmetic packaging needs to be compact, portable, and shatter-proof for everyday wear and tear. Plastic packaging fits the bill perfectly and includes items like perfumes, lotions, lipsticks, cosmetic chemicals, shampoos, conditioners, and so on.



Home & Garden

Garden fertilizers, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies—take a walk through your house and you will find plastic packaging providing safe, secure, and convenient storage for your everyday needs. Lightweight, yet durable is the key to these packaging formulations. They don’t let the integrity of the chemicals degrade, but they keep their shape as well, even in harsh environments with exposure to even harsher chemicals. Top properties for polymers used for household packaging include:

  • Shatter-proof
  • Efficient designs
  • Chemical resistant
  • Moisture resistant
  • Flexible

Plastic packaging for household use is critical for withstanding harsh environments while maintaining the integrity of the material. Some applications include concrete, fertilizer, soil, cleaning products, gardening pots, containers, laundry detergents, and more.

Common Packaging Polymers & Amco's Top Suppliers

As the demand for plastic packaging expands and industries look for alternative methods for safe, efficient, economical packaging, we are ready to provide polymer solutions with our vast network of supplier relationships.

Below we discuss some of the top polymers used for packaging, their uses, and our main suppliers for these materials.

POLYETHYLENE (PE)

HDPE – HIGH-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE

As one of the most widely used plastics, HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) makes many types of bottles and containers. Unpigmented bottles are translucent, have good barrier properties and stiffness, and are well suited to packaging products with a short shelf life such as milk. Because HDPE has good chemical resistance, it is used for packaging many household and industrial chemicals such as detergents and bleach. Pigmented HDPE bottles have better stress crack resistance than unpigmented HDPE.

Properties

  • Excellent resistance to most solvents
  • Higher tensile strength compared to other forms of polyethylene
  • Relatively stiff material with useful temperature capabilities

Common Packaging Applications

  • Bottles for milk, water, juice, cosmetics, shampoo, dish and laundry detergents, and household cleaners
  • Bags for groceries and retail purchases
  • Cereal box liners

LDPE – LOW-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE

While it is slightly less durable than HDPE, LDPE still displays excellent toughness, flexibility, and transparency. This makes it a great candidate for film applications and where heat sealing is necessary. LDPE also is used to manufacture some flexible lids and bottles as well as in wire and cable applications.

Properties

  • Excellent resistance to acids, bases, and vegetable oils
  • Toughness, flexibility, and relative transparency; good combination of properties for packaging applications requiring heat-sealing

Common Packaging Applications

  • Bags for dry cleaning, newspapers, bread, frozen foods, fresh produce, and household garbage
  • Shrinkwrap and stretch film
  • Coatings for paper milk cartons and hot and cold beverage cups
  • Container lids
  • Squeezable bottles (e.g., honey and mustard)

Our Polyethylene Suppliers

Marlex® | Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC


NOVOPOL® | Nova Chemicals
SCLAIR® | Nova Chemicals


PRIMATOP® PE | Amco Polymers



POLYSTYRENE (PS)

PS is a versatile plastic that can be rigid or foamed. General-purpose polystyrene (GPPS) is clear, hard, and brittle with a low melting point. Typical applications include protective packaging, foodservice packaging, bottles, and food containers. PS is often combined with rubber to make high impact polystyrene (HIPS) which is used for packaging and durable applications requiring toughness, but not clarity.

What’s the difference between HIPS and GPPS? Learn more from our blog.

Properties

  • Excellent moisture barrier for short shelf-life products
  • Excellent optical clarity in general-purpose form
  • Significant stiffness in both foamed and rigid forms
  • Low density and high stiffness in foamed applications
  • Low thermal conductivity and excellent insulation properties in foamed form

Common Packaging Applications

  • Foodservice items, such as cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, hinged takeout containers (clamshells), meat and poultry trays, and rigid food containers (e.g., yogurt)
  • These items may be made with foamed or non-foamed PS.

Our Polystyrene Suppliers

PRIMATOP® PS | Amco Polymers

TOTAL Polystyrene | TOTAL


POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE (PET)

PET is clear, tough, and has good gas and moisture barrier properties. This resin is often used in beverage bottles and many injection-molded consumer product containers. Cleaned, recycled PET flakes and pellets are in great demand for spinning fiber for carpet yarns and producing fiberfill and geotextiles.

Properties

  • Clear and optically smooth surfaces for oriented films and bottles
  • Excellent barrier to oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide
  • High impact capability and shatter resistance
  • Excellent resistance to most solvents
  • Capability

Common Packaging Applications

  • Plastic bottles for soft drinks, water, juice, sports drinks, beer, mouthwash, catsup, and salad dressing
  • Food jars for peanut butter, jelly, jam, and pickles
  • Oven-able film and microwavable food trays

Our PET Suppliers

PRIMATOP® PET | Amco Polymers

POLYPROPYLENE

PP has good chemical resistance, is strong, and has a high melting point making it good for hot-fill liquids. This resin is found in flexible and rigid packaging, fibers as well as large molded parts for automotive and consumer products.

Properties

  • Excellent optical clarity in biaxially oriented films and stretch blow molded containers
  • Low moisture vapor transmission
  • Inertness toward acids, alkalis, and most solvents

Common Packaging Applications

  • Containers for yogurt, margarine, takeout meals, and deli foods
  • Medicine bottles
  • Bottle caps and closures
  • Bottles for catsup and syrup

Our Polypropylene Suppliers

FHR Polypropylene | Flint Hills Resources, LP

Formolene® | Formosa Plastics Corporation, USA

COPYLENE® | Phillips 66

TOTAL Polypropylene | TOTAL

PRIMATOP® PP | Amco Polymers

Want to learn more about these and other resin offerings from Amco Polymers?

Known throughout the country and the world, Amco offers its customers the best, widest range of engineering polymers at the most competitive prices. Tell us about your product needs and we can select the right material for your application, together. Learn more about our resin offerings through our strong supplier relationships.

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