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Global plastics industry - Statistics & Facts

Since the start of its mass production in the 1940s, plastic has become a ubiquitous part of human life. As of 2018, the global production of plastics had increased to nearly 360 million metric tons. By the year 2050, plastic production is expected to have tripled and will account for a fifth of global oil consumption. This points to the inherent conflict between plastic’s myriad of uses and its environmental impact.

Although there are thousands of different plastics, there are approximately seven broader types of plastic that are produced and consumed in large quantities: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene/styrofoam (PS), and miscellaneous plastics. The plastic bottle, made from PET, has become a symbol of plastic itself. Companies such as Indorama Ventures, M & G Chemical, and PetroChina Group lead the PET production capacity. The 'miscellaneous' plastic types, such as polycarbonate (PC) , acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and nylon are produced and consumed in large quantities globally as well. In addition to bottles, plastics are used for films, extrusion coating, injection molding, cables, and many other uses. Given their varied utility, plastics demand worldwide is expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable future.

The widespread usage of plastic, especially single use plastics, leads to the widespread existence of plastic waste. Even in developed countries, researchers have found plastic fibers in tap water. Much of this plastic enters the ocean as microplastics, creating ocean gyres that have negative impacts on birds, fish, and other marine life. This unfortunate phenomenon has given rise to an increased push for plastics to be recycled. In 2018, nearly 30 percent of plastic bottles were recycled in the United States. The recycling rate of PET bottles in Japan is over 90 percent, and European Union recycling rates of plastic packaging waste range from 24 to 74 percent. However, as long as the demand continues to increase, the cascading negative impacts of plastic use will be difficult to mitigate.

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Plastic industry worldwide

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United States plastic industry



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