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Global plastics industry - statistics & facts

The plastic industry back dates to the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1950’s that the mass production of plastics began. Since then, more than nine billion metric tons of plastic materials have been produced worldwide, with plastics becoming a ubiquitous part of human life. The global plastic market was valued at 580 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 and is expected to experience considerable growth over the next decade. Some of the key players within the plastics industry include ExxonMobil, Sinopec, and LyondellBasell.

Plastic production

Annual global plastic production reached a high of 368 million metric tons in 2019, having experienced a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of roughly 3.5 percent from 2010. However, the plastics industry was disrupted in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19, which caused global output to decrease by an estimated 0.3 percent compared to 2019. China is the leading producer of plastics, accounting for roughly 31 percent of global production. Despite the economic impacts of the pandemic, the production of plastic products in China increased during 2020. In comparison, plastic production in Europe continued to decrease, falling by an estimated five percent compared to 2019. North America (NAFTA) is the second-largest producer, with plastic production in the United States amounting to more than 56 million metric tons in 2019.

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. Polyethylene (PE) is the most widely produced plastic worldwide and is used to produce many products, such as packaging. The second-most produced plastic is polypropylene (PP), of which more than 70 million metric tons worth was produced in 2020.

Plastic demand continues to grow

Despite the recent backlash against plastics due to pollution concerns, plastic remains a hugely important commodity that is used in virtually all aspects of modern daily life. Thus, plastic demand is set to continue growing for the foreseeable future, with production set to reach 589 million metric tons in 2050. The global demand for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – a thermoplastic polymer most associated with plastic bottles – reached 27 million metric tons in 2020 and is projected to reach 42 million metric tons by 2030. The demand for eco-friendly solutions such as sustainable plastic packaging is also expected to experience growth. However, COVID-19 has had an impact on sustainability goals within the industry. Hygiene concerns have resulted in a substantial rise in the demand for single-use plastic products such as gloves and face masks, with some cities having to temporarily reverse bans on these items.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 30 most important statistics relating to "Plastics industry worldwide".

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