Polythene film reels clear and co-extruded

What is polythene?

Many of us use polythene every day, sometimes without even realising, but few of us know how it is made or how it was discovered.

Sefton Transmail are experts in polythene but we understand not everybody is. We’ve put together a list of some of the highlights and little known facts about polythene, its beginnings, production and usage.


  • Polythene is regarded as the most common plastic in use today, both commercially and industrially.
  • Polythene is completely waterproof.
  • Despite being a light weight material, polythene is incredibly durable, strong and flexible.
  • Polyethylene (as it is scientifically known) was first discovered by accident in 1898 by a German chemist called Hans von Pechmann. His colleagues Eugen Bamberger and Friedrich Tschirner termed the white, waxy substance as polymethylene.
  • In 1933 Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson also accidently created the substance at the ICI works in Northwich, their attempts to replicate the ‘accident’ proved difficult.
  • In 1935 Michael Perrin, another ICI chemist developed a process that marked the basis for industrial polyethylene production, which then began in 1939.
  • Large scale commercial production began in 1944 by Bakelite Corporation and Du Pont, under licence from ICI.
  • The process of creating polyethylene begins when ethylene is acquired from natural gas or petroleum. This is then combined with oxygen in a polymerisation process, which in turn allows for the formation of long chain polymer molecules, the Polyethylene is made.
  • There are two main groups of polythene, High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE). HDPE is mainly used in rigid, high strength products such as containers and bottles. LDPE is most commonly used for the vast majority of products that Sefton Transmail manufactures: mailing bags, polythene envelopes and polythene wrap. In addition to these two main groups there is also Medium Density Polyethylene (MDPE), mostly used to make pipes and fittings as well as some carrier bags and films.
  • Approximately 80 million metric tons of polyethylene is produced each year.
  • In 2009 the estimated global market for LDPE was in the region of £13.2 billion.
  • Global consumption of HDPE reached over 30 million tonnes in 2007.
  • The melting point of LDPE is 105oC to 115oC (221oF to 239oF), whilst HDPE is 120oC to 180oC (248oF to 356oF).
  • For the scientifically minded, the graphic below shows the polymerisation process, from ethylene to polyethylene.

ethylene to polyethylene chartPolthene created from polymer pellets

Here is a selection of just some of the items that can be made using polythene:

Grey, Recycled, Made again, Green, Environmentally Friendly, Cheap, Mailing Bags, Cheap


Grey mailing bags – we offer a vast selection of stock sizes and customisable options. We also stock grey mailing bags that are made from recycled polythene.



Bright, Coloured, Polythene, Opaque, Co-extruded, Polythene, STM


Spectrum mailing bags – maximise impact when sending out goods with our coloured co-extruded range.




Polka dot printed mailing bags



Our divinely different range – a stylish way to send out all of your packages, this range consists of a variety of designs printed on white co-extruded polythene.



parking charge notices



Parking charge notices – these clear polythene printed notices are carefully designed to be waterproof, durable and leave no sticky residue.




Greeting Card, Polythene bags, Cast Polypropylene, CPP, Cello Bags, Transparent, Re-sealable


Polypropylene bags – these “glass clear” bags are great for displaying cards, envelopes and packing clothing items.




Grip seal polythene bags


Grip seal bags – these clear bags are ideal for holding spare parts, components and a huge range of other items.





For further information on any of the items, or for a quote, contact our team of polythene experts.