Top 11 Most Important Plastics

A wide variety of plastics with varying material properties are produced globally and are suitable for different applications and purposes. Check out the list below for the most common and vital plastics:

plastic water bottles

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)

PET is the most commonly produced plastic, generally used for bottling, packaging, and as a fiber (Polyester). The major benefit of PET is its recyclability, whereas polyester has wide applications globally, provides effective moisture barrier, and is shatterproof.

Polyethylene (PE)

Polyethylene products

Different variants of Polyethylene are produced, and each variant possesses different material properties that serve different purposes. The most common types of PE:

  • LDPE: Low-density Polyethylene is mostly used for making plastic grocery/carrier bags. They bear low tensile strength but are highly ductile.
  • HDPE: High-density Polyethylene is a variant used for making tough plastic packaging such as containers, sturdy detergent bottles, and trash bins.
  • UHMW: Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene is a sturdy PE variant which is as strong as steel. It is mostly used in medical devices such as artificial limbs.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC pipe being cut

PVC is rigid, brittle, and strong plastic, extensively used in construction applications in both residential and commercial properties. PVC pipes of differentiating thickness, flexibility, and length are used for vinyl siding, insulating electrical wires, and plumbing.

Polypropylene (PP)

PP is a semi-transparent plastic. Its immense adaptability makes it suitable to be used in different types of applications to include packaging, plastic parts in the automotive industry, living hinges, and parts for the textile industry. PP is a good electrical insulator, does not react with liquids, can be easily repaired, and has a low-friction surface.

Polystyrene (PS)

styrofoam products

Polystyrene is generally known as Styrofoam and is widely used for packaging purposes. Its transparent variant is most commonly used for soft-drink lids or for test tubes and petri-dishes in the medical field.

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

The quality which makes PLA different from other plastics is that it’s a derivative of biomass and not petroleum. It is widely used for DIY 3D Printing, and because of its origin, it is highly biodegradable as compared to traditional plastics.

Polycarbonate (PC)


PC is a high-strength and transparent material which is largely used in applications where high impact strength or transmissivity is required, such as riot gear for forces or in greenhouses.

Acrylic (PMMA)

acrylic product

Application of this high-quality plastic is mostly found in optical devices. It is highly transparent and scratch resistant and thus is suitable to be used for glasses. Moreover, if the material somehow shatters, it does not pose serious damage to skin or sensitive tissues of eyes.

Acetal Polyoxymethylene (POM)


Acetal Polyoxymethylene is a high-resistant and high-tensile strength plastic which bridges the gap between plastics and metals. The material properties of POM make it a low-friction plastic which is resistant to water, abrasion, different chemical compounds, and heat.

Nylon (PA)

nylon rope

Nylon is a versatile plastic which is used in diverse applications such as clothing, cars, mechanical equipment, making rope or thread, and reinforcing rubber material in car tires. It is temperature resistant and possesses high-strength; therefore, it is usually used as a substitute of low-strength metals.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene):

ABS is quite resistant towards chemicals and physical impacts, but its low melting temperature makes it easy to use in machines, mold manufacturing, and for 3D printing.

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