U.S. plastics industry - statistics & facts

The demand for plastics has grown exponentially since it first became commercially available more than half a century ago. Since then, plastics have become massively important materials that are used in all walks of life, from electronic products, textiles, automobiles, and construction. Innovations in plastics have also revolutionized the medical sector. As such, plastics production has increased substantially, and the U.S. has continued to play a major role in the industry. In 2019, North America accounted for roughly 20 percent of global plastic materials production. Many of the world’s largest plastic manufacturers are based in the U.S., such as Dow Chemical and the ExxonMobil chemical division.

Plastics production

Plastics production in the U.S. totaled 121.4 billion pounds in 2019. Of this amount, the production of polyethylene, which includes HDPE, LLDPE, and LDPE, was highest. Polyethylene is a thermoplastic polymer and the most used polymer worldwide. It is commonly used in applications such as packaging. The packaging sector is by far the leading market for thermoplastic resin sales in the U.S., accounting for a 31 percent share of sales in 2019.

Oil firms are betting on plastics

The U.S. plastics industry is largely fueled by the country’s oil and gas sector. With the availability of domestically produced petrochemical feedstocks, the plastic industry could be considered to go hand in hand with the U.S. fossil fuels industry. Prior to being pushed out of cost-effectiveness as a result of the oil crisis in 2020, the U.S. shale oil and gas industry fueled what was dubbed the ‘U.S. shale advantage’, which led to billions of dollars in plastic industry investments. With the energy transition already underway, many oil companies such as ExxonMobil have started investing in petrochemical plants with the thought that as transportation demand for oil decreases, the demand for plastics will continue to grow.

Plastics in the U.S. economy

Despite the recent backlash against plastics due to environmental concerns, the industry continues to play an important role in the U.S. economy. It is the third largest manufacturing industry in the country and provided more than one million jobs in 2019. The highest number of employees in the U.S. plastics industry are in California, Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, with more than 70,000 people employed in each state. Additionally, U.S. plastics industry shipments generate more than 400 billion U.S. dollars a year. The market size of the plastic and resin manufacturing industry was valued at 74 billion U.S. dollars as of 2021, having recovered slightly from 2020 and the economic damage caused by COVID-19.

Interesting statistics

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


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