The Growing World of Plastics
Plastics are an integral part of our everyday lives. They are used in our clothing, housing, automobiles, aircraft, packaging, electronics, signs, medical implants and so much more. In 1950, global plastics production was 1.5 million tonnes and growing at an average of 9% annually. Production reached 230 million tonnes in 2009. Europe was the largest producer at 24%, followed by the NAFTA countries with 23% and China with 15%.
The current GDP growth forecast is 4% per annum. Emerging markets will see the highest growths, but mature industrial markets are expected to exceed the GDP forecast.
Key drivers for the future include:
- World population explosion
- Climate change and the environment
- Looming energy crisis
- Disease prevention and increased longevity
- Accelerating developments in technology
The potential for plastics distributors in Europe is great. Think of it, if production is 230 million tonnes and Europe produces 24% of it, that’s about 55 million tonnes. If only 1% of that is accessible to distribution, that is 5.5 million tonnes. The question is: where will that 1% be? The following market segments comprise that 1%:
- Packaging = 40%
- Building and Construction = 20%
- Automotive = 7%
- Electrical/Electronic = 6%
- Others (sign & graphics, industry, leisure, medical & health, agriculture, transportation, etc.) = 27%
The majority of EPDA members focus on the four broad segments: signs & graphics, building & construction, industry, and pipe, valves and fittings. EPDA’s goal is to stimulate its members in these segments by sharing knowledge and information with and among its members.
Industry/Pipe, Valves & Fittings Segment
The Industry/Pipe, Valves & Fittings segment includes plastic products commonly used in the life science, food and beverage, energy, water treatment, and the chemicals industries. Examples of the applications include tanks, media filtration, reactors, water transport lines, chemical distribution lines, chemical drainage, and wet benches. Plastics commonly used in this segment include PVC, PP, PVDF, PVC-C, PFA, ABS, PE, PVC-U, MFA, FEP, ECTFE, and double containment piping.
Building & Construction Segment
The Building & Construction market segment is the second largest user of plastics worldwide after packaging. These materials have high strength-to-weight ratio and are durable, corrosion resistant, cost effective, energy efficient, and require low maintenance. durability. Plastic materials normally seen in the building and construction market are acrylic, polycarbonate, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), PVC foam, ACM (aluminum composite materials) and CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride).
Signs & Graphics Segment
Signs and graphics are all around us. These materials are used to sell products, advertise companies and display merchandise without detracting from a brand or product. Examples include store fixtures, tradeshow displays and all kinds of signage. Plastics commonly used in this market include acrylic, polycarbonate, polyester, free foam PVC, GPPS, SAN, HIPS, PVC vinyl and thin gauge PVC, PET, PC & PP.