Tricks of the trade

Low density vs high density trash can liners – What's the difference?

Heather Mahr, a Ferguson author

by Heather Mahr


Are you throwing money away? If you aren’t aware of the different types of can liners available on the market, then chances are you might be. Knowing what makes each type of trash can liner unique will help you choose the right one to use for certain applications so you can avoid waste and save money from your facility’s total operating budget. Learn about can liner materials and their advantages to help you keep your facility’s money from going in the trash.

Can liner materials and advantages

There are three main types of materials, or resins, used to manufacture can liners: linear low density polyethylene, low density polyethylene and high density polyethylene. These materials have unique characteristics that are derived from differences at the chemical level.

High density polyethylene

High density polyethylene, or HDPE, is one of the sturdiest types of polyethylene available. HDPE liners are stiffer and feature less stretch to offer a strong lift strength. HDPE can liners can also withstand extreme temperatures compared to the other liner materials. Because of its strength, can liners made from HDPE do not need to be as thick as other liners. Applications include small to large receptacles, primarily used indoors where materials are soft such as food, laundry, paper and rags. HDPE liners do not require as much material to construct, so HDPE liners offer excellent value because they save in shipping and storage costs.

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Linear low density polyethylene

Liners made from linear low density polyethylene, or LLDPE, are very flexible, strong and offer more stretch and more resistance to punctures and tears from sharp objects than HDPE can liners. Applications include small to large trash receptacles, indoor or outdoor use where trash contains sharps such as sticks, glass, cardboard, wood, metal, plastic eating utensils and food with rough edges. In addition to their function, they are also offered in a variety of colors. LLDPE liners are widely available as they are the most commonly used liners on the market.

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Low density polyethylene

Low density polyethylene, or LDPE, is flexible, lightweight and often available at a lower upfront price point than other liners. The LDPE savings do come at a cost as these liners are not as strong, dense or as tear-resistant than the other materials. These liners would not be able to stand up to heavy, bulky items or waste with jagged edges compared to HDPE and LLDPE. As such, the best way to use these liners is for small, gentle waste items that do not require durability.

Can liners and total cost of ownership

By realizing the fact that all trash can liners are not created equal, facility owners and operators can better understand their total cost of ownership, or TCO. Instead of considering the upfront cost for a product, considering TCO can account for the actual costs associated with using that product. TCO calculates indirect expenses such as shipping, storage, replacement, and labor costs. As mentioned above, LDPE can liners may have a lower upfront cost than their LLDPE or HDPE counterparts, but if they’re being used for the disposal of bulky items and are not able to stand up to the job, their TCO is actually going to be higher than other liners. It’s better to invest in can liners based on their intended application instead of their upfront cost.

Ferguson Facilities Supply is here to help you keep your facility running at full speed. We are your source for can liners, trash and recycling products plus all of your other janitorial and MRO supply needs.

Heather Mahr, a Ferguson author

Heather Mahr

With over 10 years of experience in the plumbing, HVAC and industrial supply industry, Heather uses her knowledge to serve trade professionals. She's committed to helping them work smarter by being a resource of useful information.