PLASTICS, FROM PLAIN,
TO BEAUTIFUL AND FUNCTIONAL, WORLDWIDE, RAPRA, BERLIN 2005
The Art of Plastics Design
Conference 18th -19th October 2005, Berlin, Germany
Summary of plastics consumption and trends,
world in 2005
Plastics have been a success story, for their unique features.
Plastics truly are Amiracle materials”, with the almost infinite
combinations of various molecules creating these multiple polymers,
in the true heart of matter.
The main characteristic of plastics is to offer a combination of
many properties, none outstanding, but the synergy of all creating
their very value for many applications. One of the most striking
features of plastics is to be, at the same time, flexible glass
and transparent metal.
The definition of plastics in this paper only includes solid plastics,
excluding all polymers in liquid form, for paints, adhesives, binders
and the like. The rule is to retain only the compounded polymers
in which the polymer contents are more than 50%. Hence, for instance,
the glass reinforced unsaturated polyester are included, whilst
the phenolic and aminoplasts resins for chipboard and plywood are
World consumption of plastics
The average annual rate of growth of 8% that brought all solid
polymers from 7 million tons in the world in 1960, to over 200 million
tons in 2005, is to continue, reaching over 300 million tons in
2010, using a more conservative annual rate of 6.5%.
Total world production/ consumption of plastics, since the beginning,
at the turn of the twentieth century, has kept an average annual
rate of growth of 15 %, or doubling every five years, until 1974,
when this trend was broken at the first oil shock and this high
growth rate was never achieved again, in spite of the entry of new
producing and consuming countries in Asia and Latin America. The
average annual growth rate of plastics was 15% from 1960 to 1974,
and 8% thereafter, from 1974 to 2005. The slowing down is mainly
due to the high share of the industrialized rich countries, still
about 50 % of world total, where growth rates are slower. The very
fast developing areas in Asia achieve growth rates of two digits,
comparable to those of the industrialized world in its heyday of
the 1960-1975 period.
World production/ consumption of plastics, long term, 1960-2010. In thousands of metric tons
There still are plastics applications not requiring any
special effects or design, just plain
Out of these global figures, it is of interest to try identifying
the amounts of plastics of various types and applications that require
little or no finishing, or further elaboration, the very plain plastics.
In order to make a more precise analysis of the plastics applications,
the major end-uses, as a world average, are given below.
Average share of the major plastics end-using industries,
worldwide in 2005
|Automotive and vehicles
|All other, industry
Of course, there are great differences depending upon countries
or even world areas, as the concept of end-uses is that of the activities
of the plastics converting industries, and the consumption of raw
materials in the various converting processes, film and pipe extrusion,
molding. Obviously the more sophisticated end-uses and plastics
design have been more important in the more developed countries,
but this is no longer true, when, for instance a fast growing area
like China already is the world leader in the production of many
China is a world leader in many sophisticated, well developed applications.
Just as an example, to assess the very sheer size of China:
China, production and export of selected industrial finished
|Color TV sets
Source: Sinodata Consulting
As of 2005, China produces close to 100 % of portable radios and
shavers, 80% of total world production of microwaves, 35 % of vacuum
cleaners, over 30 % of refrigerators and washing machines.
In China consumer economy, sales of almost everything from electronic
goods to automobiles are soaring. For instance, in the electronics
sector, in 1996 China had 7 million cell phones and the United States
had 44 million. By 2003 China had grown to 270 millions versus 160
millions in the United States. In effect, China is leapfrogging
the traditional land-line telephone stage of communications development,
going directly to mobile phones.
The use of personal computers finally took off in China. After
a late start, the number of personal computers jumped to 36 millions
in 2002 compared with 190 millions in the United States. But with
the number of computers in use doubling every 28 months, it is only
a matter of time before China, with 1.3 billion people, overtakes
the United States, with a population of 297 millions.
With household appliances, such as television sets and refrigerators,
China has long since moved ahead of the United States. Already by
2000, for example, TV sets in China outnumbered those in the United
States by 374 millions to 243 millions. With refrigerators, perhaps
the most costly household appliance, production in China overtook
that of the United States in 2000.
Among the leading consumer products, China trails the United States
only in automobiles. By 2003, it had 24 million motor vehicles,
scarcely one tenth the 226 million on U.S. roads. But with car sales
doubling over the last two years, China fleet is growing fast.
China is no longer just a developing country. It is an emerging economic
superpower, one that is writing economic history. If the last century
was the American century, this one looks to be the Chinese century,
or the Indian century?
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