Plastic Materials That Are UV Stable

Some of our most popular questions include “Is this material UV stable”, or “How long will this last in direct sunlight”, or something similar.

These are great questions. Just look at the ‘cheap’ backyard furniture you bought last year at the big box store, yep, it is faded and cracking. Why is that?

The quick answer is the material had either no UV (Ultra Violet Light) stabilizer or very, very little. Most plastic materials are not UV stable to start with, the main exception is Acrylic Sheeting which is virtually invisible to UV.

All other plastic materials need a little something extra to give it the protection it may need from the sun. Many plastic materials, if given the proper additives, can be used in direct sunlight for 10 – 15 years (or longer) giving excellent performance. UV Stable Playground HDPE Sheet

The first factor in picking such a material is the intended use. Not all materials are good candidates for all applications.

While some materials will perform very well, others under the same conditions will fail. Please contact us for details on a material to meet your needs.
HDPE sheet is one of the best materials for long term outdoor use, if given the proper additives. Next time you drive by a children’s playground in your local city, look at the brightly colored panels used to make the play equipment. This is a HDPE sheet with some heavy UV additives, and this makes an excellent application. These UV stabilized HDPE sheets are available in a rainbow of colors and are able to be easily fabricated, this material is excellent for many outdoor applications.
If your application is more mechanical and will not be exposed to direct sunlight, other materials that you might use would be: Polycarbonate, UHMW, ABS (especially with Korad cover), Acetal, Noryl and many more.

Our standard Covestro Makrolon Polycarbonate is a UV stable material in sheet, and is frequently used in replacement glazing applications. The remaining materials on the list are available in Black (a carbon black pigment) which extends outdoor usage. While still not recommended for direct sunlight, they can be used with a good possibility of success – depending on design.

Plastic materials have a tendency to become brittle or lose properties over time with sun exposure, if material does not have enough or proper UV stabilization. When using the proper material that contains the proper additives or coating, you can expect years of trouble free service.


Additionally, many materials will work well if they are painted to cover the plastic surface. Many spray paints, especially Acrylic paints, last many years in the sun. Please check with us, as some material do not accept paints or coatings.


Take some time to review your requirements, and the properties of the plastic you intend to use. The right material will provide the best performance. Contact any of our Plasticologists for assistance, call 866-832-9315 or email us. You can always do research on materials at www.iplasticsupply.com

Google+ – Hayden Hess


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47 Responses to “Which Plastic Materials Are UV Stable – Stablized”

  1. Paul Schultz

    Is it possible to tell if a food grade 55 gallon barrel is UV Stabilized? I want to get several used food product containers and and use them for composting yard waste and rain barrels (for veggie garden).

    Reply
    • Plasticman

      Hi Paul,
      Unfortunately there is no way to tell if a plastic product is UV stable after it is made into a part…other than it degrading from the sun.
      The UV additives to plastic that make them UV stabilized don’t change the appearance, so it is not visually apparent. Many food grade materials are not UV stabilized because some UV stabilizers are not FDA compliant.
      Sorry I can not give you a more definitive answer. Perhaps the best choice is to contact the maker of the barrel, listed on the bottom.

      Reply
  2. Lorna

    Hi,
    I’m trying to find out what UV stabilisers are added to HDPE to make rainwater tanks for outdoor use. They are rated food-grade in Australia. Thanks!

    Also – love the website, great teaching resource for chemistry!

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Most outdoor tanks are crosslinked HDPE. Some use carbon black to help with the UV stabilization process.

      Reply
  3. Mike

    Hello, I am looking for a plastic or other material that can be manufactured into clear or translucent, light weight, hollow balls (similar to table tennis balls) sized from 6 mm up to a max of 20 mm. They will be subjected to direct and prolonged exposure to the sun in working temperatures from -40C to +70C. The only pressure they will be subjected to is their own weight in a containment vessel that could be 76 cm deep and up to 6 metres tall, and the pressure of them being blown into place with air pressure.

    Does such a material exist?

    Thank you in advance for your response,

    Mike

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, you can have acrylic spheres made. However, in order to do this right you would need to contact a shop that specializes in making domes and spheres out of acrylic. The only problem you may run into is that making these spheres are not as cheap to make as you think. To make it as light as a ping pong ball– the manufacturer will need to use acrylic film and the end result may not look as aesthetically nice as you want.

      Reply
  4. james clasby

    I’m looking for a covering for a storage shed and think I’ve found what I’m looking for. It’s a corrugated plastic ,like a cardboard box. Home depot has it, called plaskolite , but it’s unknown weather it’s uv stable. A company called coroplast does offer uv stable panels but only in the thicker panels for commercial aps. (Too expensive for my use.) Would you know if paint would stick ,and if so would a clear coat work?

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Hi James,

      From what I see the corrugated Plaskolite material doesn’t specify if it’s UV stable, you are right on that! Coroplast on the other hand is a Polypropylene that is UV stable, but will last you a few years. I don’t know how much material you need, but if you need to cover a small area and don’t want to pay the large price for UV stable panels, perhaps the steel panels might be a simpler solution.

      Reply
  5. mark

    Hi,

    I’m looking to make a decorative part out of plastic that will be outdoors. Its basically a 6″ disc and the color will be yellow. My question is would PP be as good as PE, and about how long can one expect the yellow to hold out with no UV stabilizers and then with UV stabilizers and could you recommend the additives? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Hi Mark,

      There are a number of things that can be done, but unfortunately we don’t have enough information to go by to give you a definite answer. My first question is how thick of a material do you need? Secondly, do you want the material in a translucent color yellow? Or Opaque yellow?

      The cheapest route would be to buy some clear acrylic and spray paint it yellow. They have acrylics in a translucent and opaque yellow. You can probably do a google search and find a 12″ x 12″ piece.

      If you are looking for something more long term that will last you 10-15 years, then a yellow Playground Board HDPE material would do the trick. Most standard sheets for this material would come in .250″-.750″ thickness.

      PP in a yellow would probably require special ordering. Normally, PP is not UV stable and as mentioned before there are HDPE materials specifically formulated with UV inhibitors. Thank you for your question and I hope this helps.

      Reply
      • mark

        Thank you Jesse for your prompt response! The thickness is .1875. This part will be injection molded in a yellow PMS and will be opaque. Perhaps I should select a HDPE or would it be better to silk screen the color with UV ink?

        Reply
        • Jesse

          Mark, injection molding and resins are the two things we don’t deal with here in our line of work. So, contacting a resin or injection molder might be the next course of action to getting you where you want to be.

          Reply
  6. Wilkerson

    Hayden,
    What a great site! Thank you!
    When I saw the title of this conversation, I was hoping it might answer a question about UV rays and plastic sheeting.
    I’m talking about plastic sheeting for outdoor use – from covering garden/farming areas, to making greenhouses, anywhere you look that claims to have answers, there seems to be more failure than success. Most uses such as central US, are for merely covering large areas of seed bed during the spring rains. (we had over 4 1/2 FEET this year locally and most of the central US gardeners gave up) So. . . to keep the ground dry and sneak in the planting between downpours we need something that’s not to crazy in price, but we might get a couple years from. (Or, more expensive + more years?) Of course, the greenhouse-like applications and swimming pool covers are just as problematic. If you ever have a moment to look for instance on Amazon for greenhouse plastic sheeting, the claims and reviews are all over the place. So, do you know of any product(s) that would work well for this. Is black better/worse than clear/opaque, Polyethylene better/worse than * * * ???, 4, 6, 10, mil?
    If you’ve addressed this before, forgive me and please leave a link, I didn’t see the topic specifically.
    FYI, if you do look on Amazon, you will see, the person or company that comes up with a five year, reasonably priced rolls of sheeting, will be an instant millionaire.
    Thank you for your time.

    Reply
    • Plasticman

      Great Question Wilkerson,
      The most common material for agricultural ground cover is Poly Film (Polyethylene Film or PE). The material is very inexpensive, and is used all over the world for ground cover. Many large farms will use the clear film in wide widths to cover large areas, and keep heat in. The problem, as you have pointed out is UV. The clear PE film does not have any UV protection, and thus will only last 6 – 12 months in direct sunlight. The black PE film does better, as the black pigment adds some UV stabilization to the material. But, once again, the material only lasts 12 – 18 months in direct sunlight.
      The answer is to use a much more UV stable material, but to do so will increase cost by as much as 10X. People generally prefer to replace the film every year or so, rather than spend the extra money on a ‘better’ material.
      The films that are available for this application, are simply not designed for long exposure to sunlight. The thickness range of .004 – .006 seems to be the best, and of course, in black.
      I wish there was a standard thin film in the large roll sizes that would solve your problem, but at this point, the black PE film is your best bet.
      We do have sheets of material that are UV stabilized and with UV additives that will last over 15 years in direct sunlight (Sunboard PE Sheet), but they are much thicker – 1/4″ and above.
      Sorry we don’t have a great solution for thin film in this application that will last long term. Thanks for the inquiry.

      Reply
  7. Zack

    Which plastics (if any) are UV-proof or highly UV resistant, out of the box, i.e. without any additives? Speaking of additives, is this the reason lead compounds are added to some plastics, or, is it added for some other reason? Would I be able to detect lead in plastics with a handheld metal detector?
    Also, I have some plastic handline fishing reels (AKA Cuban YoYos), which were made from some regrind, polypropylene or polyethylene, or something along those lines, possibly food grade. If I were to spray them with common (let’s say Rustoleum) spray paint, would I do them a favor in terms of UV resistance, or, would the solvents from the paint damage them worse than UV? If paint helps, are some colors better than others? BTW, those special laminates like G-10 and G-11, how do they do against UV? How about carbon fiber? Also, I am assuming all metals do just fine?

    Many a thanks.

    Zack

    Many thanks.

    Reply
    • Plasticman

      Hi Zack, there are several plastics that are UV resistant in sheet. You mention ‘Lead’ as an additive, and there are no lead additives to any of our plastic sheet materials. If lead were added to most materials, certainly no lead levels would ever be detectable with a metal detector.
      Regarding the fishing reels you have, without knowing exactly the type of material it is hard to make a recommendation. There are a variety of spray paints that will work on most materials, and any UV resistant spray paint will cover and protect what it is painting, therefor, yes the plastic would be UV resistant. You may want to refer to our recent post about picking the proper plastic.
      The G-10 and other laminates or composites rely on the resin binder for the UV protection. These materials generally use an epoxy, and would be fine for medium to long term UV exposure, especially if coated or painted.
      Metals are UV resistant, but will rust and corrode in outdoor applications. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  8. Bob

    I notice that HDPE milk jugs, filled with water, seem to just split on their own, when they sit on a shelf, inside a building (with no sun), after about 8 to 14 months. Is this happening because the sheeting is so thin, it can’t handle holding water indefinitely, due to the water’s pressure constantly putting stress on the HDPE?

    In addition to this, I’ve seen HDPE jugs become brittle when left outside. Can I still pulverize the HDPE, and melt it into a new part, and be good as new? Or has the HDPE degraded too badly, on a molecular level, and become useless?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Plasticman

      Bob, the HDPE milk jugs and water bottles are made via a blow molding process. This process yields some very thin cross-sections, and also leaves some stress in the materials. Long term pressure on a thin section that has stress could end with some failures.
      Regarding the recycling or ‘pulverizing’ of the HDPE milk jugs is a common practice. There are a wide variety of products produced from the reprocessing of milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles (HDPE). This is done by grinding or shredding the bottles into very small pieces, and then using this recycled HDPE to produce other parts. Here is a recent article on a common re-purposed HDPE product, recycled HDPE Plastic Lumber. This HDPE Plastic Lumber has a 50 year warranty, so even partly degraded milk jugs produce a long lasting new product. Thanks for asking!

      Reply
  9. Byron Mcconnell

    How well does PVC do in direct sunlight? We found a hollow PVC square shaped fence post and wondering how long it might last outside above ground, as apposed to treated outdoors wood.

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Hi Byron. Generally hollow PVC fence posts have UV inhibitors since the application is made for outdoors. The duration of how long it will last varies. Some plastics are made to withstand cold temperatures while others are made to withstand high heat. So I could not give you a clear answer. Some have a guarantee of 10 years while other guarantee 20 years. One thing I can tell you is that it will probably get chalky over time and once you see it start to crack– then that is when you may want to replace it.

      Reply
  10. Brooks

    Can UV resistant HDPE pellets be purchased? Does the UV inhibitor stay in the HDPE if it is re-melted several times? finally; what brands or types of uv resistant HDPE are “food grade”? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Elliston, HDPE and additives can be purchased through resin suppliers. Although we sell plastic, resin is not a part of our inventory, sorry! UV inhibitors should stay in the HDPE if it is re-melted, but note that the properties have a tendency change especially when heat is applied to any plastic. Lastly, our Seafoam, Sand, White and Gray are all FDA approved Colors. Black it the only color that is not FDA approved.

      Reply
  11. Ron

    I’ve got a patio table that sits out in the Florida sun year round. Well, it’s not really a table anymore. It’s a table frame as the glass has broken – twice. First time, a cordless drill was dropped by a roofer doing repairs. Second time – blown over in a storm. I’m thinking of installing a clear plastic top, but I need something that will not scratch easily and will not become milky over time. Suggestions?

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Ron, acrylic does well in the sunlight and has a hard surface,so it will not scratch easily. The only drawback is that does not have the same impact strength (0.4 ft-lb/in of notch) as polycarbonate (12-16 ft-lb/in of notch). Polycarbonate has a softer Rockwell hardness than acrylic. The good news is that acrylic is a very economic plastic. Also there is an acrylic called DP-32 that has a glass like finish if you want a more aesthetic looking table. You might have seen these on tables and shower doors but never realized it was acrylic. Something else to to keep in mind –there are Polyethylenes that aren’t clear but come in several colors and textures (brushed steel, hammered, orange peel just to name a few) with UV inhibitors, so that may be another option if you opt for something else other than something that is clear.

      Reply
  12. Marty

    I found a site about a guy who made a camping trailer of recycled political signs, apparently Coroplast and wonder how the same material might hold up for an RV skin. I know big blue and big orange sell 4×8 sheets of corrugated plastic, but not quite sure who the manufacturer is. So even if the material isn’t uv stable a coating of acrylic paint will give it some more life?
    How long could I expect either to last in direct sunlight? I’m ok with replacing the panels from time to time as long as it doesn’t have to be done every few months. The reason I ask is A. cost and B. weight .

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Hi Marty. This is a good question. Generally as political signs the plastic will last approximately 4 months (give or take). The problem you might have is that the Coroplast isn’t structurally designed for that application. For example a pocket knife or a pair of scissors could easily cut through, so using it as an RV skin would not be recommended if you are looking to protect the structure of the RV. With this application aluminum siding would work best. Ultimately, you will decide if it is worth the time and effort when it comes to replacing the panels.

      Reply
  13. Randy Veres

    We are going to be molding an outdoor light sensor probe. The material we have used for other outdoor applications is polycarbonate that is UV resistant; are there any ratings for how UV resistant the plastic is? How much UV additive do you add to get a certain level of UV resistance?

    Reply
    • Plasticman

      Randy, when molding a plastic, the options are vast. A wide variety of resin grades and fillers are available. We are a sheet, rod and tube supplier, and the resins are different. Extrusion resins are limited, where injection molding resins are almost unlimited. You should check with your molder on the types of UV resistant polycarbonate they would have available. Our standard Polycarbonate sheet is UV stabilized, and we have a grade of polycarbonate sheet that has an extra UV coating to give the sheet a 10 year outdoor life. You should be able to get a molding resin that will give you the same type of results. Frequently plastics are run in opaque black to help with limiting the UV from attacking the resins, if that helps.

      Reply
      • Randy Veres

        Thanks. I’m having a hard time pinning the molders down to get any kind of UV spec rating..

        Reply
        • Plasticman

          That would worry me. We can give you a sheet material with a warranty from the factory for 10 years in the sun. The molders have a lot more flexibility as they can choose specific resins and then add things to give specific physical properties. Have you talked to a second molder for an opinion?
          Here is a prime example. We are currently supplying Recycled HDPE (milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles, etc) and having is made into lumber sizes. The plastic lumber is then rated with a 50 year warranty for exterior use. Yes, 50 years! Certainly if we can get a recycled milk jug to last 50 years, you should be able to get a prime resin that is used for exterior applications to give you some warranty.

          Reply
  14. BobAchgill

    What would be a good uv rated, durable 12′ wide plastic roll material that can be used for a long outdoor slip-n-slide?

    Reply
    • Jesse

      Bob,

      Most slip-n-slide are made out of PVC with UV inhibitors. I have also seen LDPE sheet used for that application. The problem is that most materials do not come with UV resin or coating as a standard. So, if you wanted to buy any of these materials then you would need to specify that it needs to be UV. In addition having some sort of color other than a opaque white or black will mostly be a custom run.

      Reply
  15. Byrone

    Hi This is a great site,

    I was wondering how long about would clear nylon (BF140) last in the open without
    a uv stabiliser?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Plasticman

      Hi Byrone,
      The clear nylon products do not have a UV stabilizer and are not intended for outdoor or UV applications. Can you let us know what your application is so we can make a recommendation of a material that will work for you? Generally Nylon sheet and rod is used for wear applications, and the clear nylon was designed for things like sight gauges and viewing ports. Let us know how we can help further.

      Reply
  16. Kate

    What type of plastic would you recommend for outdoor use, it needs to be able to be cavity molded and have a clip form that would hold weight of 20lbs? Think like the command strip clips, but flat…

    Reply
    • Plasticman

      Hi Kate,
      It looks like you are asking for a recommendation for a material that you will injection mold. We would suggest you discuss this with your molder. The vast number of resins and combinations of resin available to injection molders is massive. We deal with a much more limited range of plastics, about 40 common plastic materials. Regarding UV, with most plastics a UV additive can be added to the resin to give you your desired results.
      In the sheet, rod and tube world, there are a few materials that are excellent for exterior applications, like Acrylic, Sunboard HDPE and Polycarbonate sheet materials.
      We hope this is helpful. Let us know if you have further questions.

      Reply
  17. Jim L

    I have a need for a clear plastic resin that will stand up to UV. It will be used in the marine industry. We currently are using polycarbonate for its properties. The part is molded to snap over the boat railing. It must not break under stress. We need it to be as clear a possible but could do a slight translucent especially if it is blue. The parts resemble chess pieces and are injection molded. 3-5 years outside would be ideal.
    Do you have any ideas?

    Reply
    • Plasticman

      Jim, this is a topic you should discuss with your injection molder. Polycarbonate is a great choice for clarity and impact resistance, with reasonable UV. Acrylic sheet has some of the best UV resistance, but has poor impact resistance – unless your molder adds an impact modifier.
      The plastic sheet side of plastics has many limitations with the types of resins used to produce our sheets. We have about 40 base materials produced into sheet. In injection molding they have 100’s of resins, and a huge number of additives that can be added to a chosen resin to give it more of a requested property. Because injection molding can be done in very small batches, mixing a ‘special’ resin is something that is done. In the sheet world, they make many thousands of a specific sheet in a specific size, not just a few.
      Your molder will have a wide variety of plastics to chose from.

      Reply

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