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European plastics industry: it’s big business

German market research agency Ceresana is publishing a new study on the situation in the European plastics market. The company is presenting the report at this year’s Fakuma trade fair, which takes place from October 13-17 in Friedrichshafen, Germany. This latest analysis is the first time that all commercially significant plastics—from standard products, such as polyethylene, polypropylene or PVC, to engineering plastics, such as ABS or fluoropolymers to bioplastics—have been covered in a single comprehensive market study, said Ceresana.

Karen Laird

August 18, 2015

2 Min Read
European plastics industry: it’s big business

Entitled “Market Study— Plastics— Europe”, the report does not include synthetic fibers nor their use in paints and varnishes, adhesives and sealants. In addition, synthetic resins, such as epoxy, phenolic, melamine and urea formaldehyde resin, as well as silicones, have also been excluded.

According to Ceresana, the European plastics market is “worth billions” reaching a volume of over 53 million metric tons in 2014. Based on the demand volume and price development for the various individual types of plastics, sales are projected to rise at average growth rates of 2.9% p.a. to about €104 billion in 2022.

Germany is the largest manufacturer of plastics in Europe, with a market share of almost 24%. Belgium ranks second, followed by France, Russia, the Netherland, and Spain.

In 2014, the three main application areas for plastics were flexible packaging, rigid packaging and the construction industry, which together account for some 70% of the total demand for plastics in Europe. However, the sales markets with the highest growth rates—in excess of an annual 2%¬— were the segments transportation and electrics and electronics.

The two most important materials used in flexible packaging were LDPE and LLDPE, which together made up 53% of this type of packaging, followed by polypropylene and the High Density Polyethylene (HDPE).

Rigid packaging, which includes containers such as cans, cups, trays, bottles, boxes and caps, is a steadily growing area of application. Plastics are increasingly being used to replace more conventional materials such as aluminum, tin plate or glass. Plastics are lightweight and versatile, they have cost and environmental advantages, facilitate handling and manufacturing, improve quality and security and offer new opportunities in packaging design. In Europe, PET is the material of choice for rigid packaging, followed by PP and HDPE. Another trend: lightweighting is still an important goal in this area, which producers aiming to manufacture ever lighter containers, in order to minimize resource consumption and transport costs even further. Yet, this process cannot continue indefinitely, hence the growing use of plastic bags as an alternative, for example in some segments of the beverages market.

The other major application area for plastics in 2014 was the construction industry. Next to residential construction, plastics were utilized in office buildings, sport arenas, and department stores, in applications ranging from films, cables, tubes, profiles and coverings to sheets and pipes, dowels, screws, glazing, mounting elements, coatings and membranes. Demand for PVC was the greatest: some 5.5. million metric tons of PVC are used every year in the European construction sector, says Ceresana. HDPE is in second place, followed by PS and EPS.

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