The global plastics market size is expected to grow from USD 605,816.1 million in 2020 to USD 736,110.0 million by 2027, at a CAGR of 3.3% from 2021 to 2027. Plastics are organic materials, just like wood, paper, or wool. Plastics are made from natural products such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt, and, of course, crude oil. Plastics are highly flexible materials that several consumer and industrial applications can be used. Since most plastics have a low density, plastic products are lightweight.
Furthermore, although most plastics have excellent thermal and electrical insulation properties, some plastics can be made to conduct electricity when necessary. They are resistant to many chemicals that attack other materials, making them long-lasting and ideal for harsh environments. Certain plastics are transparent, which aids in developing optical devices.
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Plastics are among the most affordable materials that provide various properties, such as mechanical strength, tensile strength, and shelf life. As compared to its alternatives, plastics have comparatively lower prices. Due to cost, lightweight, structural strength, and easy moldability, plastics have shown a surge in demand from industries such as automotive and aerospace for better fuel efficiencies and lower production costs. Plastics such as polycarbonate have extended their usage from glass sheets to usage in in-home IoT devices due to their impact-resistant, flame retardant, and heat-resistant capabilities. Polyurethanes have shown a boost in demand from sectors such as automotive, packaging and seating, and mattresses due to their ability to provide better acoustic and thermal insulation, sustainable resource utilization and memory foam, and better comfortability, respectively. Bioplastics, such as PLA, have also shown increasing utility in the medical industry. For instance, PLA has observed a boost in demand from hearing device manufacturers due to the plastic’s sustainability and mechanical strength factors.
Biodegradable plastics degrade by the action of bacteria, micro-organisms, air, and water under controlled environmental conditions. Several biodegradable additives for polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), and polyhydroxy butyrate (PHB) have been developed by institutes as well as companies that aid in widening the reach of the controlled environments. Bio-based plastics are made of plant derivatives and can degrade within a few weeks. Since bio-based plastics are readily printable, they eliminate the need for multiple layers of plastic extruded together, saving raw material and transportation costs. Bioplastics such as PLA have comparable mechanical and physical properties compared to polyolefins. Thus, with increasing environmental awareness and more stringent laws and regulations, the manufacturers are shifting toward developing the same.
COVID–19 Impact on the Global Plastics Market
The plastic industry has had an overall positive impact on its market due to COVID-19. Increased demand for cleaning, household, personal protection, and hygiene products has been observed within the duration. Moreover, due to the decreased prices of crude oil during the period, the cost of production of plastics was reduced due to cheaper raw materials. The packaging industry observed a boost in demand due to nationwide lockdowns across several countries—this increased demand for plastics from the packaging industry. COVID-19 has also negatively impacted the recycled-plastic industry due to the limited availability of raw materials since lockdowns resulted in less plastic waste collection. Moreover, factories were also forced to shut down temporarily. This resulted in an overall negative impact on the recycled plastic industry.
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Global Plastics Market Dynamics
Drivers: Increasing Demand from Packaging Industry
The packaging industry has shown an immense increase in demand for plastics due to their cost-effectiveness, durable properties, and ability to provide performance. Over 30% of the packaging industry uses plastics in packaging material, printing material, barriers, and others. Plastics ‘rarely’ react with the substances with which they are packed. This inert nature allows plastics to become an ideal packaging material. Moreover, plastics such as polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are easily printable, increasing the usability of plastics as a packaging material. Plastic packaging consists of over 35% usage of plastics on a global scale. This makes it an ideal market segment to target since with the changing landscape, sustainable products. Bioplastics, biodegradable plastics, and recycled plastics could prove vital alternatives for petroleum-based plastics since other alternatives such as aluminum, steel, and wood are less economical in terms of availability and cost factors. The packaging industry utilizes plastics to manufacture bottles, caps, sheets, packets, wrappers, and containers.
Challenges: Stringent Government Regulations on Plastic Production and Recycling
Governments from all over the world have recognized the importance of sustainable development and a cyclic economy for the proper sustenance of the countries. According to the World Bank Report (2018), 242 million tons of plastics waste were generated in 2017. One-third of the waste generated in high-income countries is recycled for various applications, whereas only 4% of the total waste generated in low-income countries is recycled. This is due to the inefficient infrastructure for waste collection in the countries. The United Nations (UN) has developed a list of 17 sustainability goals that incorporate 174 targets, 960 events, and several other factors that help in aiding in sustainable development goals for the world. This schedule is planned to be achieved by 2030, and 178 countries are a part of the same. These countries have implemented regulations by either limiting plastic production or forcing the manufacturers to adopt more sustainable techniques or alternatives. This can significantly lower the demand for conventional plastics in the foreseeable future.
Opportunities: Increasing Applications in 3D Printing
With the emergence of new technologies, such as 3D printing, the demand for plastics has seen a fresh stream of applications. Since these types of plastic do not have any pre-requirements for additional or custom additives or additional properties, the manufacturers have shown an interest in moldable plastics for 3D printing due to lower transportation costs and ease of handling production. Due to sustainability, demand for bioplastics and biodegradable plastics has also seen incremental growth in 3D printing applications.
Scope of the Plastics Market Report
The study categorizes the plastics market based on application and product type at the regional and global levels.
By Application Outlook (Sales/Revenue, USD Million, 2017–2027)
- Films and Sheets
- Bottles and Caps
- Bulk Containers
- Others (Cups, Pots, Pouches, Trays)
- Building and Construction
- Industrial Scale
- Commercial Scale
- Electrical and Electronics
- Computers and Laptops
- Mobile Phones
- Others (Cables, TV, etc.)
- Consumer Goods
By Product Type Outlook (Sales/Revenue, USD Million, 2017–2027)
- Resin Type
- Starch Blends
- Recycled Resins
- Molding Type
- Injection Molding
- Blow Bolding
- Extrusion Molding
By Region Outlook (Sales/Revenue, USD Million, 2017–2027)
- North America (US, Canada, Mexico)
- South America (Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Rest of Latin America)
- Europe (Germany, Italy, France, UK, Spain, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Rest of Europe)
- Asia Pacific (China, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia & New Zealand, Rest of Asia Pacific)
- The Middle East & Africa (Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Africa, Northern Africa, Rest of MEA)
The packaging segment is projected to account for the largest market share by application
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The global plastics market is divided into packaging, building and construction, electrical and electronics, consumer goods, automotive, and others based on application. In 2020, the packaging segment accounted for the largest market share of 40.7% in the global plastics market. Plastics have extensive usage in the packaging industry as they are cheap, durable, can be printed upon easily, and are non-reactive. Moreover, plastics increase the shelf life of the packaged product by keeping the preservatives intact and disallowing any interactions with the external environment.
Plastics are used in rigid packaging such as films, pouches, and sheets and flexible packaging such as bottles, cups, trays for foods, beverages, chemicals, and medicines. The aesthetic appeal of the packaging materials promotes the product sale, thus maximizing the revenue. In addition, the growing demand for bio-based plastics such as Bio-PET and Bio-PP are preferred for manufacturing printable films and packaging films by the method of extrusion. UV resistance, abrasion resistance, and several other properties can be added by mixing different additives in conventional plastics, recycled plastics, and biopolymers. Production of bottles, caps, films, and containers is the largest consumer segment for bio-based plastics. Companies such as BASF SE and Evonik Industries AG aim to develop plastic products for the packaging industry that are highly recyclable and support using bio-based polymers to create products with similar mechanical and physical properties as petroleum-based polymers at the same time have minimal effects on the environment.
Asia Pacific accounts for the highest CAGR during the forecast period
Based on the regions, the global plastics market has been segmented across North America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, South America, and the Middle East & Africa. Globally, Asia Pacific is estimated to hold the highest CAGR of 3.5% in the global plastics market during the forecast period. Growth is expected with the increasing demand from various end-user segments such as packaging, automotive, consumer appliances, and electronics. In addition, burgeoning demand for high-quality and low environmental impact products is inciting the demand for bio-based plastics within the region. Increasing investment in the research and development of bio-based and recycled plastics opens the opportunity for eco-friendly plastic manufacturers.
After the Asia Pacific, Europe is the fastest-growing region in the global market of plastics. The conventional plastics market in Europe is shifting owing to the rising demand for bio-based, biodegradable plastics and recycled solutions. Several companies are offering environmentally friendly solutions apart from petroleum-based plastics. The conventional plastics market in Europe is shifting owing to the rising demand for bio-based, biodegradable plastics and recycled solutions. Several companies are offering environmentally friendly solutions apart from petroleum-based plastics.
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Key Plastics Market Players
The plastics market is mildly concentrated in nature with few numbers global players operating in the market such as BASF S.E., Arkema S.A., LyondellBasell Industries N.V., The Dow Chemical Company, INEOS, Lanxess AG, MBA Polymers Inc., Koninklijke DSM N.V., Novamont S.p.A., Neste Oyj, Royal Dutch Shell, Formosa Plastics, Evonik Industries AG, LG Chem Ltd., SABIC, ENI S.p.A. (Versalis), Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, LLC, ExxonMobil Corporation, Total SE, Sinopec, Borealis AG, and Braskem S.A.