From polythene packaging to the extraordinary – uses of polythene you may not realise existed

Hanmere Polythene has been at the forefront of innovative polythene packaging for over 50 years, but applications for this versatile material go way beyond the films, bags, sheets and sacks we use on a daily basis. In our latest blog, we look not only at the polythene packaging industry, but also at 3 of the plastic’s more surprising uses.

Facial surgery

In 2015, more than 50,000 people in the UK had plastic surgery, more than ever before.

Porous polyethylene implants are often used in facial surgery, for both cosmetic and reconstructive purposes.  Popular for chin, jaw and cheek surgery, the porosity of the material allows for optimum tissue regrowth around the implant, ultimately keeping it in place.

The implants can be carved or contoured to fit complex areas of the face, and are more successful at being incorporated than smooth implants like silicone rubber.  The latter has presented problems such as encapsulation i.e. the body’s own immune response causing rejection of the material.

Surgical technique involves the fixing in place of the polyethylene implant using titanium screws, followed by in-situ shaping by a skilled surgeon.

Road markings

With £4bn spent (in 2012-13) on maintaining England’s 187,000 miles of roads, it is vital to choose the most effective methods and materials.

Used to mark roads, car parks, sports pitches, and playgrounds, marking paint contains polyethylene additives.

Polyethylene wax is a low molecular weight polyethylene polymer used as an additive to hot melt road marking paint.   This addition allows for excellent adhesion properties along with enhanced durability and flexibility.

A truck mounted extrusion machine is used for the application of this paint on roads, and the material is heated to 200 degrees C before being laid down.  Glass beads are added at this stage while the coating is hot, and set as the plastic hardens.

Hula Hoops

PE tubing is the material of choice for the beginning hula-hoop enthusiast.  Modern hula hoops made from polyethylene have been around since 1958 – and prior to this they were made from stiff grasses and willow.

Polyethylene is thicker and heavier than some other tubing types, giving the user more control over the hoop due to the slower speed.

With the UK retaining its top spot in the toy industry throughout Europe in 2015, we can be proud to have an industry worth a staggering £3.2 billion.


Polythene is an essential ingredient within the packaging industry today.  The industry employs some 85,000 people in the UK – representing 3% of the UK’s manufacturing industry workforce – and has sales of over £11 Billion.

From our state of the art UK factory, Hanmere Polythene supplies bespoke polythene bags, sacks, and liners suitable for high risk food contact use to a wide cross-section of businesses throughout the United Kingdom and Mainland Europe.

To discuss your packaging requirements further, feel free to contact us on 01462 474777.



Colour polythene film – the advantages and applications

Humans can typically perceive approximately 10 million different colours[1], though some 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have come form of Colour Vision Deficiency (CVD)[2]. In western culture we can rapidly recognise and name the primary and secondary colours in the light (additive) and pigment (subtractive) colour systems[3]. As a result we often use colours to give weight to signage:

  1. Red backgrounds for prohibition signs.
  2. Yellow  backgrounds for warning signs.
  3. Blue backgrounds for mandatory signs.
  4. Green backgrounds for emergency/safety signs

or to differentiate between similar tools for different tasks:

  • Red kitchen equipment is used for raw meat.
  • Blue kitchen equipment is used for raw fish.
  • Yellow kitchen equipment is used for cooked meats.
  • Green kitchen equipment is used for salads and fruits.
  • Brown kitchen equipment is used for vegetables.
  • White kitchen equipment is used for dairy products.

Food processing

Whilst the use of colour to differentiate between equipment is common in kitchens where cross contamination is likely, it is less likely in the food processing industry. Here, where the risk of cross contamination is reduced by process layout, the greater concern is foreign body contamination. As a result materials such as packaging, process packaging, gloves, disposable hairnets and the like are coloured blue. Why blue? – since there is little or no natural blue food having materials  in this colour means that any contamination, should it occur, is very readily and visually identifiable.

Batch identification

The use of colour does not have to be restricted to making potential contamination readily identifiable, in processes where the product has a limited life, it can be used for batch identification and stock control. With six primary and secondary colours and several readily identifiable tertiary colours it is possible have a different coloured packaging film for each day of the week. In this way if the product should only be in the plant for 3 or 4 days it is simple to visually discern at a glance when a product was produced, which product should be used next and which products should be disposed of.

Combining print and colour

And what if the plant runs several shifts? Well, the colour range can be extended but above about seven colours it becomes more difficult to discern between some of them. The alternative is to stick with the same daily colours and to add print. If there are two shifts per day then the addition of simple black stripe would suffice to differentiate between the two. For sites with additional shifts,  additional stripes can be added. Such printing does not have to be black nor does it have to be a stripe but a full length contrasting stripe is more readily visible.

Waste identification

Another common use for coloured films is in waste identification.  In the food industry different waste streams such as rework, not for human consumption, no food waste can all be simply and readily identified by use of different colours. But it is not restricted to the food industry, other businesses can use colour to identify differing streams such as recycling, non-recycling, food and waste paper for shredding. Similarly in the veterinary and medical sectors different coloured films can be use to differentiate grades of clinical/bio-hazard waste.

Product Preservation

In the horticultural world many products need to stored away from light, thus to aid this when storage in the dark is not guaranteed films can be coloured black opaque to minimise colour presentation.


A final typical use of colour is marketing, most businesses have a colour that is associated with their corporate branding and so it is not usual for them to seek to use that colour in their packaging and the materials that they use for their products.

Hanmere’s solutions

Within its portfolio of products and services Hanmere has the ability to produce films with a wide range of colours  and colour densities, and to print both single colour random print and six colour registered print. For customers migrating from kraft products to polythene films we can even produce film that not only feels like kraft paper but also looks like kraft paper in colour as well. For those businesses who require opaque black bags for horticultural use or blue bags for food use we can supply bi-colour films that have the internal surface one colour i.e. black or blue, and an outer surface that matches the branding requirements for the the product.

To discuss your requirements for coloured and printed films further, feel free to contact us on 01462 474777, or complete our contact form and we will contact you.


[1] Judd, Deane B.; Wyszecki, Günter (1975). Color in Business, Science and Industry. Wiley Series in Pure and Applied Optics (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley-Interscience. p. 388. ISBN 0-471-45212-2.