Canadian Plastics

New report examines global polymer growth over past 30 years

Over the past 30 years, the world market for polymer has grown from 45 million tonnes to over 250 million tonnes, according to a new report from UK-based AMI Consulting.

November 8, 2014   Canadian Plastics

Over the past 30 years, the world market for polymer has grown from 45 million tonnes to over 250 million tonnes, according to a new report from UK-based AMI Consulting.


Called “Global Polymer Demand”, the report characterizes the global polymer business as a “roller coaster ride where disruption and change are a constant factor in the marketplace.”



The success of plastics over the past 30 years has generally been achieved because of their light weight and strength, and the design flexibility they offer brand owners, the report noted. “These are the characteristics which have led to the replacement of metals, glass, paper and other traditional materials in many applications,” the report said. “Indeed the future opportunities continue to be significant as heritage materials retain a strong position in many markets with great opportunities for polymers to continue to replace them.”


Issues such as food waste and energy conservation are impossible to solve without plastics materials, AMI said. “In a world where 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year and US $6.5 billion-worth of goods are damaged in transit because of insufficient protection, the contribution which plastics products can make to these challenges has never been clearer,” the report said.


The past 30 years have also seen a significant change in the structure and direction of the world industry. “In 1983 approximately 74% of world demand occurred in the developed countries of North America, Western Europe and Japan,” the report said. “By 2013 their share of world demand had decreased to 32% – despite the fact that demand has continued to grow quite strongly in these countries over much of this time.”


But that’s about to change, the report continued. “Slower growth for much of the 21st century together with much faster growth in developing regions, particularly East Asia, means that Greater China is now the largest market for polymers in the world with a share of 30%, compared with 6% in 1983.”


Globally, packaging has come to dominate the end use markets for polymer, the report continued. “This is true in all geographic areas of the world,” the report said. “Overall packaging accounts for around half of all polymers processed in volume terms, split fairly evenly between flexibles and rigid.”


Of the remaining applications, the building and construction sector make up a further 20% of demand, the report noted. “This means that despite the attention given to automotive, medical and electrical applications they remain a relatively small part, in volume terms, of the overall industry, although these markets often represent much higher added value to the polymer used,” the report said. “While demand growth is slowing in the developed world, the scope for growth in developing parts of the world will ensure that the global polymer industry can still look forward to annual increases in demand of around 5%/year which will result in a market in excess of 300 million tonnes by 2018.”


For more on the AMI report, go to

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