In the ecological framework of our times, the issue of polyethylene vs. polypropylene bags and products, in general, became increasingly important in the past years. What are these polymers? How useful they are and what we should know about the bags made from such materials are questions we will answer today. Moreover, if you throw in polyester into the equation, things become even more complicated. To clarify any concerns about the use of these materials, we will offer you today a guide on these polymers.
What is Polyethylene?
Polyethylene is one of the two most common plastics used around the world (the second being polypropylene). There are three forms we know and use this plastic polymer:
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE): this is a highly durable and resilient material, able to withstand high and low temperatures; it is an opaque material, and you find it in storage containers, milk jugs, water drums, and more.
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE): with lower tensile strength than HDPE but more flexibility and resilience, LDPE serves to manufacture packaging foam, disposable gloves, sometimes poly bags and ziplock bags;
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET): this is the type of plastic we all use when we get bottled sodas and water; PET is recyclable, and some eco-brands are using recycled PET products to manufacture fashion items like socks or beanies.
What is Polypropylene?
As you can see from the bullet list above, you can get some polyethylene bags, but when it comes to polyethylene vs. polypropylene bags, the latter has gained substantial popularity levels in plenty of fields, including the fashion and sustainability one.
Let us explain. Polypropylene is a durable and lightweight material, with excellent mechanical features, and high resilience to wear, tear, fatigue, impact, and extreme temperatures. A variety of this material – the non-woven polypropylene – represents a praised fabric due to its durability.
As we mentioned before, polypropylene has a handful of uses in all areas of life, from the most straightforward consumer products to the most sophisticated fashion items.
Environmental Concerns Regarding Polypropylene
Many people – showing genuine concern about the environment – know already that polypropylene has the lowest environmental impact than all plastic varieties. In fact, in comparison to the PET version of polyethylene, polypropylene produces less CO2 and less solid waste.
Polypropylene supports some of the environmental and sustainability principles. Besides meeting the FDA and USDA specifications, polypropylene is reusable and recyclable. While things are not ideal yet, new technologies and projects take wings every day, mainly because the market demand for recycled polypropylene is much higher than the present supply.
Polyethylene vs. Polypropylene Bags
One of the main dissimilarities between these two materials is that polypropylene bags and non-woven poly bags belong more to the accessories’ industry than polyethylene ones. Let us see some examples to make things clearer:
- Standard Polypropylene Grocery Bag
One of the most notable environmental efforts of our times is the replacement of single-use plastic bags with reusable shopping bags. While the world is crazy about canvas shopping tote bags, we cannot dismiss the utility and functionality of a standard polypropylene grocery bag.
They can carry products and items that do not belong in a canvas tote. They are resilient to wear and tear, easy to clean and maintain, and reusable for decades. Waterproof, sometimes stain proof, robust, and durable, they make the most loyal shopping companions.
- Insulated Poly Shopping/Picnic Bag
The insulated poly shopping bags withstand heavy loads, keep your groceries (or your picnic food and beverages) cold, and offers protection with zipper or closures.
It features all the benefits of polypropylene tote bags in general, coming with the added value of working as a mini-cooler whenever you need one. They also make excellent promotional materials.
- Non-Woven Poly Bags
These bags go beyond the practical purpose of shopping bags, as more and more women wear them as fashionable day purses and handbags for casual outings and even as part of office attire.
A zippered large non-woven poly tote bag can carry all personal items a woman needs during the day; it can also act as a small travel tote bag for short trips (car rides or airplane business trips); many use it as a gym bag – as polypropylene is resilient to moisture or bacteria – and more.
- Poly Camo Printed Tote Bags
If you paid attention to fashion trends in 2018, you surely noticed that camo prints were all the rage. A pattern that went beyond its initial military camouflage purpose, today it is favorite among women and men alike. One of the trendiest items of last year was the camo print tote bag, a versatile day bag for women with a high sense of style and a penchant for innovation and nonconformity.
Polyester vs. Polyethylene vs. Polypropylene Bags
As we said, we will throw polyester bags into the equation, to offer a bigger picture of how plastic polymers can serve the fashion industry without taking a massive toll on the environment. While polyester is not biodegradable, it is nevertheless recyclable.
Famous fashion brands make clothing items out of recycled PET and polyester, while innovative smaller brands make accessories (such as socks, winter beanies, and ties for instance).
One of the most common uses of polyester fabrics in the fashion and accessories department is the manufacturing of polyester drawstring backpacks – a trendy and useful item for men and women alike.
If you wonder who won the polyethylene vs. polypropylene bags contest, we have to say that polypropylene and polyester did – at least in the realm of fashion and sustainability. They are not perfect materials from an ecological standpoint (being, at the end of the day, plastic polymers) but they take a smaller toll on the environment in comparison to their synthetic relatives.
Life suffocated of plastic pollution is a global issue that we should all consider fighting. It does not mean that the world will ban polyester or polypropylene fashion or household items any times soon because they demonstrated time and again their utility and versatility.