It’s the environmentalists’ worst enemy, but people around the world Use Mountains of plastic every day and business is booming with manufacturers.
Much to the chagrin of activists, the increasingly stringent regulatory environment does not appear to have dampened the industry’s strength so far.
However, this is changing and the massive plastic is starting to adapt.
From 2006 to 2016, global plastic production increased from 245 million to 348 million tonnes, according to trade association PlasticsEurope. Production increased by 3.9% in 2017. In 2016 the growth rate was 4%, and in 2015 – 3.5%.
Demand for thermoplastics alone – including the most common types of plastic such as PET, which is used in water bottles, polypropylene, polyethylene and PVC – grew 4.7% annually from 1990 to 2017.
“Will this continue in the years to come?” We can assume that will happen,” said Herve Millet, Technical and Regulatory Manager at PlasticsEurope.
“The reasons why plastic manufacturing is growing around the world won’t go away all at once,” he added.
The growth of the plastics industry goes hand in hand with economic development, Millet said.
The faster the economy grows, the more plastic is used in construction, infrastructure building, the electrical and electronics industry, and transportation.
Single-use plastic packaging – the enemy of environmentalists – is also in great demand in developing countries.
China Leads in Using Plastic
Even in Europe, where the fight against plastic is intense, packaging accounts for 40% of consumption.
But the world’s leading plastic producer is China. Today, it holds 29% market share, up from 15% just a decade ago.
At the same time, their market share for European, American and Japanese plastic manufacturers is shrinking.
Where western manufacturers do particularly well is in the development of so-called specialty plastics used in the construction, automotive, medical and other industries.
The new polymers are also used in the aerospace industry and in the manufacture of specialty sports shoes.
Pierre Gadrat, head of chemicals and materials at French consultancy Alcimed, said the sector was “as dynamic, if not more dynamic than ever”.
The growth of the Industrial Plastic Products is hampered by the concerted efforts of activists around the world and an increasingly hostile regulatory environment.
Under pressure from activists, the European Union, UK, India and even fast food giants like McDonald’s have made some progress towards ending the use of single-use plastic straws.
Plastic bags are also being phased out in countries around the world, while France will impose a ban on plastic plates, cups and cutlery in 2020.
Growing Up With Stain
Emmanuel Guichard of the French plastic packaging association, Elipso, said efforts to end single-use plastic “are not weighing on the growth of the sector”.
“However, with all these regulatory actions, we cannot imagine that at any point they will not have an impact,” he added.
When public awareness of the horrific damage that plastic pollution is wreaking on the world’s oceans and oceans, manufacturing giants are starting to worry about their image.
“Plastics are generally stigmatized,” said Millet of PlasticsEurope.
To keep their name clean, leaders in the plastics industry are recycling more and following in the footsteps of product manufacturers.
“Under regulatory pressure, plastic waste can … be considered less as waste and more as a valuable commodity,” said Gadrat. Manufacturers of other raw materials such as metal, glass and cardboard have fully integrated waste into their production cycle.