PE is the most frequently used polymer in food-packaging applications because of its low cost, easy processing, and good mechanical properties. PE also has the simplest chemical composition of all polymers, being essentially a straight-chain hydrocarbon. The major classifications of PE are high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE). These classifications differ in density, chain branching, crystallinity, and so on. Within each classification are numerous grades that have different additives, molecular weight distributions, and other properties.

HDPE has a density typically between 0.94 and 0.97 g/cm3. It is a linear polymer with relatively few side-chain branches (Fig. 3), and hence the macromolecules can fold and pack into an opaque, highly crystalline structure.

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