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Commodity Plastics vs. Engineering Plastics: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 7, 2023
Commodity plastics are common, low-cost, and used for everyday items, whereas engineering plastics are specialized, higher-cost, and used for technical applications.

Key Differences

Commodity plastics are widely used plastics known for their low cost and ease of production. They are typically used in common household items and packaging. In contrast, engineering plastics are designed for specific, often demanding applications. They are characterized by their superior mechanical and thermal properties compared to commodity plastics.
The manufacturing process of commodity plastics is straightforward, making them highly accessible and economical for mass production. Examples include polyethylene and polypropylene. Engineering plastics, on the other hand, require more complex manufacturing processes. They are used in industries like automotive and aerospace due to their durability and resistance to heat and chemicals.
In terms of physical properties, commodity plastics are generally less durable and have a lower melting point. They are suitable for products that do not require high performance, like disposable containers. Engineering plastics, conversely, exhibit high strength, thermal stability, and resistance to wear, making them ideal for high-performance parts like gears and bearings.
Commodity plastics are often chosen for their cost-effectiveness in large-scale applications. These plastics are recyclable but are more commonly found in single-use products. Engineering plastics are selected for their specific performance characteristics, often in safety-critical applications, and are usually more expensive to produce and recycle.
Environmental impact is another differentiator. Commodity plastics contribute significantly to environmental pollution due to their widespread use and disposability. Engineering plastics, while less prevalent, can also pose environmental challenges but are often used in ways that maximize their lifespan and efficiency.

Comparison Chart


Generally low-cost.
More expensive.


Everyday items.
Technical applications.


Less durable.
Highly durable.

Thermal Resistance

Lower resistance.
High thermal resistance.

Manufacturing Process

Simpler processes.
Complex processes.

Commodity Plastics and Engineering Plastics Definitions

Commodity Plastics

Low-cost, widely used plastics for general applications.
Plastic bags are a common use of commodity plastics.

Engineering Plastics

Specialty plastics for demanding, often safety-critical tasks.
Medical devices frequently utilize engineering plastics for reliability.

Commodity Plastics

Plastics produced in large volumes for basic consumer products.
Water bottles are typically made from commodity plastics.

Engineering Plastics

High-performance plastics used for specialized applications.
Engineering plastics are used in automotive dashboard components.

Commodity Plastics

Standard plastics with lower mechanical and thermal properties.
Household storage containers are made from commodity plastics.

Engineering Plastics

Plastics used in applications requiring strength and longevity.
Protective casings for electronic devices use engineering plastics.

Commodity Plastics

Common plastics not suited for high-stress applications.
Plastic cutlery is a typical example of commodity plastics.

Engineering Plastics

Plastics with enhanced properties for technical and industrial use.
High-precision gears in machinery often use engineering plastics.

Commodity Plastics

Easily moldable plastics used for packaging and disposable items.
Takeaway food containers often use commodity plastics.

Engineering Plastics

Durable plastics resistant to high temperatures and chemicals.
Engineering plastics are employed in aerospace components.


What industries use engineering plastics?

Automotive, aerospace, and high-tech industries.

Are commodity plastics recyclable?

Yes, but often used in single-use products.

What are commodity plastics?

Low-cost, widely used plastics for everyday products.

What are engineering plastics?

Specialized plastics with superior properties for technical applications.

What makes engineering plastics unique?

Their durability, heat resistance, and technical performance.

Can commodity plastics withstand high temperatures?

Generally, they have lower heat resistance.

Are engineering plastics used in consumer products?

Less commonly, usually in high-performance or durable items.

Is it easy to manufacture commodity plastics?

Yes, they have simpler production processes.

What are some examples of commodity plastics?

Polyethylene, polypropylene, and PVC.

Where are commodity plastics commonly used?

In household items, packaging, and disposable products.

What are some examples of engineering plastics?

Polycarbonate, ABS, and Nylon.

Are commodity plastics used in safety-critical applications?

Rarely, as they lack the necessary durability and resistance.

Can engineering plastics be customized for specific applications?

Yes, they are often tailored for specific technical requirements.

Can commodity plastics be used in high-stress environments?

No, they are not suited for high-stress or demanding applications.

How do commodity and engineering plastics compare in strength?

Engineering plastics are typically stronger and more durable.

Are both types of plastics widely available?

Commodity plastics are more readily available; engineering plastics are more niche.

Are engineering plastics more expensive than commodity plastics?

Yes, due to their specialized properties and manufacturing process.

Do engineering plastics offer environmental benefits?

They can, due to their longevity and efficiency in use.

What is the future of engineering plastics?

They are expected to see increased use in advanced and sustainable technologies.

How do commodity plastics impact the environment?

Significantly, due to their widespread use and disposability.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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