Is high density polyethylene biodegradable?

In this article we will discuss the biodegradability of high density polyethylene. How persistent is it in the environment? Along with its characteristics, uses and safety.

Is high density polyethylene biodegradable?

No, high density polyethylene is not biodegradable. High density polyethylene is commonly known as HDPE or PEHD (polyethylene high-density). High density polyethylene takes centuries to decompose because it mainly consists of plastic making it non-biodegradable.

What is high density polyethylene?

High density polyethylene is a polymer which is thermoplastic in nature. It is made from petroleum and is considered as one of the most versatile plastics to have ever existed. high density polyethylene is commonly used in the production of plastic bottles, piping and plastic lumber. high density polyethylene is a synthetic product and is non-biodegradable in the environment.

What are non-biodegradable products?

Non-biodegradable products are substances that are unable to decompose by natural biological processes. They are also referred to as inorganic waste. Non-biodegradable products that can be recycled are regarded as recyclable waste and the ones which cannot be recycled are known as non-recyclable waste. 

Non-biodegradable products, unlike biodegradable products, cannot be easily treated. Non-biodegradable products are those that cannot be easily broken down or dissolved by natural means. They can survive on Earth for eons without deteriorating. As a result, the threat posed by them is more than serious.

Are non-biodegradable waste harmful to the environment?

Yes, non-biodegradable waste is harmful to the environment. Waste is something which is unavoidable and is rising because of increased domestic and industrial activities. Since in most of the places there is no proper waste management system , the waste ends up creating difficulties for human life and the environment. 

The non-biodegradable waste remains on the planet for hundreds of years. One of the most common examples of non-biodegradable waste is plastic. It lacks the ability to decompose and ends up polluting the land and water. 

How is high density polyethylene made?

High density polyethylene is a type of linear polyethylene. It is a versatile, light and synthetic resin that is obtained from the polymerization of ethylene.

High density polyethylene is made at low temperatures and pressure using different catalysts and chemicals such as chromium oxide. Since the structure does not have any branches for now the chains are packed closely together making it extremely dense. This gives high density polyethylene a high strength to density.

What are the characteristics of high density polyethylene?

High density polyethylene has several characteristics which are as follow:

  • High density polyethylene has a high strength to density ratio.
  • High density polyethylene has little branching in its structure which gives it a stronger tensile strength.
  • High density polyethylene is opaque.
  • High density polyethylene is hard in nature.
  • High density polyethylene can withstand high temperatures.
  • High density polyethylene is also resistant to various solvents making it difficult to be glued.

Does high density polyethylene have any benefits?

Yes, high density polyethylene has a number of benefits. high density polyethylene is easily moldable and melt-able. One of the characteristics of this plastic is that it is highly malleable. Because high density polyethylene has a high melting point it remains rigid for a very long time.

Once the melting point of high density polyethylene has been reached it becomes easily malleable and can be molded into a variety of structures such as cutting boards, milk jugs, detergent bottles, corrosion resistant piping, food storage containers, plastic lumber and geomembranes.

High density polyethylene is resistant to corrosion. It has the ability to resist mildew, mold and rotting. For this very reason it is used as underground piping in order to deliver water. 

High density polyethylene is also weather resistant and long lasting and can be decontaminated through the process of sterilization and boiling. This characteristic makes high density polyethylene a suitable candidate for food containers and beverage containers.

High density polyethylene has the tendency to withstand extremely strong bases and acids. It is also resistant to naturally occurring chemicals present in the soil making it non-biodegradable. high density polyethylene also shows strong resistance to different solvents, chemicals, detergents and cleaning fluids.

This polymer has a high strength to density ratio because of strong intermolecular forces. High density polyethylene is also used in different commercial architectures because it is resistant to graffiti and bacteria. They are also used in dressing compartments and shower stalls.

Can high density polyethylene be recycled?

Yes, high density polyethylene can be recycled. It is considered as one of the easiest plastics to be recycled. High density polyethylene is collected by different companies and taken to different facilities to be recycled.

In these facilities the high density polyethylene products are first sorted and decontaminated to remove unwanted debris. high density polyethylene is used with other chemicals to form a specific product. In order to recycle high density polyethylene it needs to be homogenized so no other unwanted plastic polymer can ruin the entire process.

The process used to attain high density polyethylene is the near infrared radiation process. In order to refine the polymer of high density polyethylene it is further shredded and melted.

Can high density polyethylene be recycled at home?

Yes, high density polyethylene can be recycled at home. Milk bottles after thoroughly washing them can be easily reused. In order to reduce the plastic packaging waste significantly it is better to buy things with a longer shelf life in bulks. Carrier bags can also be recycled into storage bags. Do not use high density polyethylene excessively. It should only be used when it is necessary.

What are some environmental benefits of recycling high density polyethylene?

Recycling high density polyethylene has several benefits for the environment. The demand for high density polyethylene globally is huge. However, the demand for plastic carrier bags has significantly reduced thanks to raising awareness related to the environment but still the majority of bags are formed from high density polyethylene.

Since high density polyethylene is non-biodegradable and is difficult to decompose. The best possible way of making it environmentally friendly is by recycling high density polyethylene products which will have a positive impact on the environment such as:

  • Recycling high density polyethylene is a cost effective process and it can save a lot of finances when compared to the manufacturing of virgin plastic.
  • Many products such as rope, recycling bins, toys, trash cans and piping can be made from recycled high density polyethylene.
  • Recycling of high density polyethylene can reduce waste disposal cost significantly.
  • Recycling of high density polyethylene can lower the labor cost that is needed to handle the trash.
  • high density polyethylene recycling can potentially streamline the entire waste processing operations.

Why is high density polyethylene better than other plastics?

High density polyethylene is better than other plastics because it is more versatile, strong and dense. Also high density polyethylene is more resistant to microbes making it extremely less prone to microbial contamination.

It also has strong screw retention when compared to phenolic plastic. This indicates that whatever structure is made from high density polyethylene it will be more durable and structurally sound.

high density polyethylene materials never require any kind of touch ups or modifications which makes them contribute extremely less volatile organic compounds in the environment. Products that are made from high density polyethylene are resistant to fungus and molds and promote improved air quality.

high density polyethylene is 100% recyclable and can make post consumer products.

Frequently asked questions, “is high density polyethylene biodegradable?”

What is the difference between high density polyethylene and low density polyethylene?

There are several differences between high density polyethylene and low density polyethylene. Low density polyethylene is softer and more flexible as compared to high density polyethylene. high density polyethylene has higher melting point and is opaque while low density polyethylene has low melting point and is transparent in nature. high density polyethylene is more crystallized making it stronger than low density polyethylene.

How many times can high density polyethylene be recycled?

high density polyethylene can be recycled for at least ten times. According to the article, scientists conclude that high density polyethylene can be recycled ten times. The molding and shredding of this plastic does not impact its structural integrity and material properties making it easily recyclable for ten times.

Why should one use high density polyethylene?

One should use high density polyethylene because they are more sustainable and affordable. It is highly malleable and rigid in nature and is immune to corrosion and microbial contamination. It can be easily recycled making it environment friendly.

Which category of plastics does high density polyethylene belong?

high density polyethylene belongs to plastic recycling number 2. Every single type of plastic has been given a number depending on its recycling properties and other physical and chemical characteristics.

Why should the non-biodegradable waste be recycled?

The non-biodegradable waste should be recycled because they can block the waterways and if consumed by animals or humans either directly or indirectly can prove to be fatal. If recycled, they can reduce the pollution.

What type of plastics can be used as food containers?

There are different kinds of plastic that can be used as plastic containers:

  • high density polyethylene
  • polypropylene
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

These three types of plastics are resistant to microbes, are microwave safe, stable and can be recycled. However if the containers are damaged it is important not to use them for food storage because the chemicals that make up these plastics may leach into the food products making them harmful to human health.

Can non-biodegradable waste be recycled?

Yes, non-biodegradable waste can be recycled. There are various ways through which they can be recycled these are:

  • By taking non-biodegradable substances to the recycling factory.
  • By combustion and energy recovery.
  • By disposing of them at sanitary facilities.

What more can we do to reduce non-biodegradable waste?

Following are the steps to reduce non-biodegradable waste: 

  • Be responsible and aware. There are several ways as an individual to promote and adapt waste management systems and to protect the environment.
  • Promote segregation of waste by planting different colored baskets allotted for different types of non-biodegradable waste. 
  • Process of incineration should be promoted and adopted by industries. 
  • Promoting the use of bioplastics instead of conventional plastics. 
  • Proper storage houses should be installed for disposing the waste properly. 
  • Hotels and industries should properly treat waste before discarding them.
  • Waste above a certain weight should be used for energy recovery. 
  • Promoting and using food packaging which is environmentally friendly such as papers or kraft paper boxes instead of plastic. 

What is the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable?

The difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable is that the biodegradable process is rapid, involves microbes and microorganisms, and is used to produce energy and compost. The biodegradable substances are not accumulated in the environment and become a part of biochemical and biogeochemical processes happening in the ecosystem.

On the other hand, non-biodegradable process is extremely slow and does not involve microbes and microorganisms. The waste is often accumulated in the environment and is toxic for the biochemical and biogeochemical processes. Non-biodegradable waste can be separated but the process itself is extremely time consuming and expensive. 

References:

  • Taylor Smith, K. Thompson, L.( 2020, February 18). Recycling of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE or PEHD). AZO Cleantech. Retrieved from:
https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=255
  • Miller, R. (2019, February 10). 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7: Plastics Recycling By the Numbers.  Miller Recycling Corporation.  Retrieved from:
  • Gelic, B. (2019, august 14). Are Your Plastic Water Bottles and Meal Prep Containers Safe to Use? Livestrong.com. retrieved from:
https://www.livestrong.com/article/158674-which-plastic-containers-can-i-safely-use/
  • Goldsberry, C. (2018, January 24). Scientific tests prove HDPE can be recycled at least 10 times. Plastics today. Retrieved from:
https://www.plasticstoday.com/packaging/scientific-tests-prove-hdpe-can-be-recycled-least-10-times
  • Joy, R. (2020, September 03). Is Polypropylene a Safe Plastic to Use in Your Home?. Healthline. Retrieved from:
https://www.healthline.com/health/is-polypropylene-safe

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