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Françoise Pardos, Pardos Marketing, February 2006


Plastics end-uses and applications

Plastics consumption is linked to the average GNI. And it also grows faster than GNI. In 2000, an average GNI of $15,000 per capita, and more, means more than 60 kg of plastics per capita. An average per capita GNI of $2,500 or less means less than 15 kg per capita.

The world GNI per capita average of $ 5 700 in 2000, means average plastics consumption of 25 kg. In 2020, the average GNI of $ 6 800 per capita, will shifts to plastics consumption at over 70 kg per capita

Plastics have been a success story, for their unique features:

Plastics truly are miracle materials, 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 synergistic. Plastics can be, both, flexible glass and transparent metal.

The definition of plastics in this paper only includes solid plastics.

The future demand for plastics is driven:

By the continuing demand of the developed economies, slower, but based upon very large tonnage,

By the build-up of the demand of the developing economies, a replay of the last thirty years, with latest innovations.

All plastics applications develop in the emerging economies, as a multiple in tonnage, by-passing all the intermediate steps of traditional materials, for the immediate choice of the latest all plastic solutions.  

Forecasts in plastics rely on end-uses and applications.

Plastics end-using industries in 2004, in % of total plastics consumption were split as follows: 

Packaging 32
Building, public works 20
Electricity/electronics 9
Automobile and vehicles 7
Agriculture 4
Consumer goods 18
All other 10


Among the end-using industries, the active applications

In packaging, the fastest growing applications:
  • PET bottles with barriers
  • BOPP films
  • All barriers, with nano composites

The main trends in packaging are:

  • More plastics packaging, glass, paper, metal, down
  • Shift to flexible packaging, lighter packages
  • Search for single materials
  • More functional packaging, smart labels
In building construction, there are:
  • Huge demand in emerging countries
  • Building and public works multiplied by 5, in China, India, Latin
  • America. 180 000 km of new roads in China to 2020, for instance.

The main trends in building construction are:

  • Polyolefins replacing PVC in pipes
  • Growth of windows, not only PVC
  • Applications for wood and fiber composites
  • Geomembranes and public works
  • Increasing uses for waste of mixed plastics
In the electrical and telectronics industries, E/E

Half the world requires electrical networks  
Demand for household first equipment everywhere Major developments in telectronics, replacement and new, office, telephones, audio-visual
More competition between plastics, PP wins

In automobile and other vehicle industries

The growing car industry, just for private cars, that was 52 millions in 2002 will be 100 millions in 2020, many with new energy.

The growing use of plastics per car will rise from 100 kg now, to at least 200 kg in 2020, and cars will be lighter.

The fastest growing applications in cars are:

  • Complete plastics inroads into gas tanks
  • Complete plastics inroads under the hood
  • Lights and glazing of plastics instead of glass
  • Car bodies of plastics and new designs
In agriculture, there will be:
  • Growth of more sophisticated techniques
  • Fastest developments in films for greenhouses, tunnels, mulching, ensilage
  • Both plain films and very functional films
  • Irrigation and drip irrigation

The major growth is to be in warmer countries, with at least 10-12 % annual growth

Taking an ecological vision, plastics can also be split into three categories:
  • Disposables, less than one year life, 75 million tons of plastics in 2000, 200 million tons in 2020.
  • Durables, 5-15 year life, 45 million tons of plastics in 2000, 140 million tons in 2020.
  • Infrastructures, over 20 year life, 35 million tons of plastics in 2000, 200 million tons in 2020.
New and fast growing plastics

Biodegradable, polylactic polymers PLA
Major impact of metallocenes, not only PE
Revival of polyaliphatic ketones?
Many more alloys
Composites, also with wood and fibers
Nano composites
Mineral polymers, trends to silica polymers

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 up the needed infrastructures, buildings, electricity and water distribution, sewage, irrigation, telecommunications,
Providing basic requirements in consumer goods, agriculture, packaging.


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