Published On: Wed, Mar 9th, 2016

Resin or polymer? What’s the more popular term today for plastic packaging?

The more-popular term for raw plastic packaging material emerged as the leader in our poll from the very start and has stayed there, albeit by a slimmer margin as more packaging professionals responded. But the reasons why people prefer one term over the other are quite persuasive either way.

Plastic Raw Material

Resin or polymer? What’s the more popular term today for plastic packaging?

Just more than half (51%) of respondents favor the term “resin.” Why? Seems like old habits die hard, as many poll-takers had similar comments as this person: “That is how I learned it at packaging school.”

And, when in Rome, do as they do, as these respondents reveal:

“It is what I learned first, and the one I hear most frequently.”

“More commonly used with our suppliers, users.”

Others pointed out more technical reasons why they lean toward “Resin”:

“Although the term resin evokes thoughts of plant ‘ooze’ such as amber, it is a much more practical term to use in the plastics industry versus polymer. Polymer describes the material at a macromolecular level whereas resin describes the material in bulk form.”

“Resin could include additives and be made up of more than one type of polymer. For example, ABS ‘resin’ has acrylonitrile polymer and butadiene polymer as constituents.”

Polymer proponents

But a good showing of packaging people (42%) say they fancy “Polymer” as the better descriptor—for scientific reasons, in many cases:

“Resin doesn’t seem to cover the gamut of materials used as well.”

“Polymer makes me think of finished packaging and Resin, to me, indicates raw materials. I work in finished packaging so Polymer seems to fit well. Plus it sounds really cool when you add the word ‘matrix’ to polymer. Resin matrix just doesn’t flow like polymer matrix.”

“Since I am a polymer scientist by training, I prefer the term Polymer since, to me, it represents the key functional component. To me a resin is a polymer plus additives.”

“It is a more accurate term to describe the family of materials that are extruded into rigid and flexible packaging.”

Only a handful of people (4% for each selection) say they either “Don’t know” or would pick something else. For example, this respondent explains why he/she chose the “Other” category: “I think of resin as something that’s not in its final physical state. In terms of raw materials, I think of a polymer as something that’s already whole, but would just be undergoing a process like thermoforming to change its shape.”

Clearly, packaging professionals welcome diversity of phrase as much as diversity of thought. It’s one of the reasons I love covering such a dynamic and innovative industry.

These results are from an informal online poll conducted by Packaging Digest from Feb. 19 to Mar. 7, 2016, at which time we received 132 responses.