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Global plastic production 1950-2019

In 2019, the production of plastics totaled around 368 million metric tons worldwide. The incredible versatility of this group of materials accounts for the continued growth in production year after year. In tandem with that growth, the market value of plastics also continues to grow.

Plastics production: what plastics are and how they are made

Plastics are used in a wide variety of products and have displaced other materials that were previously used for the applications that plastics now dominate such as wood, metal, and glass. It can be formed into polyesters for use in fabrics and textiles, polyvinylidene chloride for food packaging, and polycarbonates for eyeglasses and compact discs, among thousands of other uses. The production of plastic requires four basic steps: the acquirement of raw material, synthesizing a basic polymer, compounding the polymer into a usable fraction, and lastly, molding or shaping the plastic. The production of plastic is quite energy intensive, requiring 62 to 108 mega joules of energy per kilogram based on U.S. efficiency averages. Producing silicon can require up to 235 mega joules per kilogram of material.

China's plastic production stands out among world regions

In 2019, the global production of plastics reached 368 million metric tons, with 57.9 million metric tons of that amount produced in Europe alone. China is one of the largest producers of plastics in the world, accounting for more than one quarter of the global production. Plastic imports into the United States are steadily increasing, with China being the top supplier. China's plastic exports have grown considerably in the past decade, with an export value of 14.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2009, increasing to 48.3 billion U.S. dollars by 2019.

Production of plastics worldwide from 1950 to 2019 (in million metric tons)*

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Release date

December 2020



Survey time period

1950 to 2019

Supplementary notes

* Includes thermoplastics, polyurethanes, thermosets, elastomers, adhesives, coatings and sealants, and polypropylene-fibers. Does not include the following fibers: PET-, PA-, PP- and polyacryl-fibers.
This statistic was assembled using several editions of the annual report.

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Statistics on "Plastics industry in the U.S."

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