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Françoise Pardos, Pardos Marketing, February 2006


World consumption of plastics and forecasts

Plastics historical trends

The plastics development and trends, in the last forty years, historically, with the first development and diversification of the plastics industry, 15% a year between 1955 and 1975  was built upon a three-step launching:

Fast economic growth of the Western world after the war, 
First investment into new durables, with improved standard of living, housing, cars, appliances,
Substitution of traditional materials by plastics

The plastics consumption forecasts in the developing world will rest, like in the Western world, on:

  • General economic growth, 5-7% a year, average,
  • Building needed infrastructures, buildings, electricity, water, sewage, irrigation, telecommunications,
  • Providing basic requirements in consumer goods, agriculture, packaging.

The average annual rate of growth of 8.1% that brought all solid polymers from:

  • 7 million tons in the world in 1960 to 175 million tons in 2004
    and to continue reaching over 300 million tons in 2010,
  • 540 million tons in 2020, 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, kept an average annual rate of growth of 15 %, or doubling every ten years, until 1975, when this trend was broken at the first oil shock, this high growth rate was never achieved again, the average annual growth rate of plastics was 15% from 1960 to 1974, and 8% thereafter, from 1974 to 2000, and 2004.

Plastics demand growth in the new vast and fast developing markets is another story, averaging more than 10-15 % a year, just like it was in the heyday of the plastics built-up in Europe, USA and Japan, in the 1960-1975 era.

The capacity increases are quite different whether considered in total or relatively. The increases of capacities are small in the already industrialized areas. Even though they also are quite high in Africa, it is not significant as they are on a much smaller base, and to stay small. Middle East and Asia Pacific are the leading areas in new commodity plastics capacities, with heavy investment into new crackers, in Iran, in the Persian Gulf, in China, mainly.


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