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Commodity Resins - Characteristics and Uses of Polymer Plastics

Commodity polymers are produced in large quantities and are used as the raw materials for many plastic products. These resins are labeled as commodities because they are commonly used and are not refined or differentiated by the resin manufacturers. Commodity polymers, such as LDPE, PVC, and HDPE, are the least expensive plastic resins to produce.
K Polymers distributes engineering and commodity resins for the commercial and industrial markets.

BOPP labels

BOPP labels

Polypropylene (PP)

Similar to polyethylene, but each unit of the chain has a methyl group attached. This commodity plastic resin is translucent, autoclavable, and has no known solvent at room temperature. It is slightly more susceptible than polyethylene to strong oxidizing agents. This commodity polymer offers the best stress-crack resistance of the polyolefins. Products made of polypropylene are brittle at 0°C and may crack or break if dropped from benchtop height.

Polypropylene copolymer (PPC)

An essentially linear copolymer with repeated sequences of ethylene and propylene, this commodity plastic resin combines some of the advantages of both polymers. PPCO is autoclavable, and offers much of the high temperature performance of polypropylene. It also provides some of the low-temperature strength and flexibility of polyethylene.

Polypropylene Homopolymer (PPH)

Grades of polypropylene commodity plastic resin are available for various fabrication processes such as injection molding, sheet and thermoforming, biaxially oriented film (BOPP), capacitor film, fiber spinning, and slit tape.

Thermoplastic elastomer (TPE/TPO)

A type of polyolefin, which, due to structure, molecular weight and chemistry, can be moulded into autoclavable parts, which are rubber-like in application and performance. This commodity plastic resin is used for several small caps and plugs on filtration and ultracentrifuge ware products.

LDPE stretch film

LDPE stretch film


The polymerisation of ethylene results in an essentially straight chain, high molecular weight hydrocarbon. The polyethylene commodity plastic resins are classified according to the relative degree of branching (side chain formation) in their molecular structures, which can be controlled with selective catalysts. Like other polyolefins, the polyethylenes are chemically inert. Strong oxidizing agents will eventually cause oxidation and embrittlement. These commodity polymers have no known solvent at room temperature. Aggressive solvents will cause softening or swelling, but these effects are normally reversible.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)

Has more extensive branching, resulting in a less compact molecular structure.

HDPE crate regrind commodity polymer

HDPE crate regrind commodity

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

Has minimal branching, which makes it more rigid and less permeable than LDPE commodity plastic resin.

Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE)

Combines the toughness of low-density polyethylene with the rigidity of high-density polyethylene commodity polymers.

Polystyrene (PS)

Rigid and non-toxic commodity plastic resin, with excellent dimensional stability and good chemical resistance to aqueous solutions but limited resistance to solvents. This glass-clear material is commonly used for disposable laboratory products. Products made of polystyrene are brittle at ambient temperature and may crack or break if dropped from benchtop height.

Polystyrene (HIPS & GPPS)

GPPS commodity plastic resin is stiff and transparent but lacks adequate impact resistance for some applications. This is overcome in HIPS, in which butadiene rubber is incorporated. The rubber phase in HIPS produces a milky appearance caused by the rubber's light-scattering effect. The chemical resistance of GPPS is greatly improved by copolymerization with acrylonitrile monomer to produce the transparent polymer SAN. In ABS, the addition of butadiene rubber particles to the SAN matrix increases impact strength, but at the same time, the transparency is lost.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Similar in structure to polyethylene, but each unit contains a chlorine atom. The chlorine atom renders it vulnerable to some solvents, but also makes it more resistant in many applications. PVC commodity plastic resin has extremely good resistance to oils (except essential oils) and very low permeability to most gases. Polyvinyl chloride is transparent and has a slight bluish tint. Narrow-mouth bottles made of this material are relatively thin-walled and can be flexed slightly. When blended with phthalate ester plasticisers, PVC commodity plastic resin becomes soft and pliable, providing the useful tubing to be found in every well-equipped laboratory.

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