Monday 8 December 2014

Our plastics consumption - A view by polymer type, region and process

A polymer engineer friend of mine gave me a good suggestion for a topic for this blog:
My colleague provided me the report of AMI Consulting 2014 and its data and facts from it that I will now share with you:

For you to get a feeling what the global polymer industry consumes on raw materials: It is worth more than US$ 500 billion per year. The industry subsequently transforms these into polymer based products which have a value of more than US $ 1 trillion. This is indeed a major driver of our world economy!

Everyone of you utilizes or at least touches in average 50 polymer based items per day.  Polymers provide these products the targeted performance and functionality.

But why are polymer products so successful?

Polymer based materials can be easily designed by chemically means as well as easily processed for particular ends. They can be made tough or flexible, hydrophobic or hydrophilic, and by processing they can take variable useful shapes that you may find all around your car, or your kitchen.
Therefore, the replacement of metals, glass and paper was inevitable.

Let’s have a look at the world demand grow: Since the year 1983 the demand grows from 45 million tonnes to an expected market demand of 250 million tonnes for 2014. Interesting is the shift of demand in a regional point of view. In 1983 areas like North America, Western Europe and Japan kept a share of world demand of 74%. Looking back to 2013, their world share decreased to 32% and countries like China and East Asia increased from 6% up to 29%. 

What about future trends?

A strong grow in demand is expected in the Indian sub continent. Why? The population there is bigger than in China but it has a polymer demand that is currently one-fifth of the size.

In Europe, the regions are expected to have the slowest growth rates. However, it has shown a constant market demand of 44-45 million tonnes for the past 3 years.

The market outlook for North America is better due to the availability of gas feedstock, which is necessary for producing polymers. It is predicted a cost reduction, especially for polyolefins. 

Which industry needs polymers the most?

AMI also had a look at the end-user applications of polymers: Although in many areas used, the field of packaging got dominant (50% of demand) and this in all parts of the world. It is followed by applications for construction (20% of demand). Applications like automotive, medical and electrical have a high attention, but in the volume they have a relatively small part.

According to a AMI calculations, there are over 230,000 plastics processing operations worldwide - this is an impressive number too!
And within the polymer processors one can find 130,000 injection moulding companies worldwide.


Herwig R. Juster 

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