EU plastics production and demand – first estimates for 2020

The first estimates of production and demand for plastics finds that 2020 has been a particularly challenging, and atypical year. At global level, results remain stable, while Europe shows noticeable decline as a direct impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

2020 Plastics Production: stable at Global level while decreasing in Europe

Worldwide plastics production reached about 367 million tonnes, a slight decrease of 0.3% compared to 2019.

Despite the health, social, economic and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, China increased its plastics production and market share from 31 to 32%, in line with the growth of its customer industries. The North American market share remained stable at around 19% of the global production, while Europe’s production decreased by more than 5%, from around 58 million tonnes to 55 million tonnes, representing a loss of 1 point of market share (from 16% in 2019 to 15% in 2020).

2020 European Plastic Demand: market decline due to the COVID pandemics

According to the Eurostat production index, first estimates for 2020 show that the European plastic converters demand ranged at around 48 million tonnes, a decrease of close to 5% compared to 2019, the lowest figure since 2014. The decrease in demand was strongly driven by a decline in production in two main application sectors: packaging and automotive.

The amount of plastic used in the packaging sector decreased by 2.5% (almost 0.5 million tonnes in 2020). While consumer packaging seems to have remained stable during the past year, the market of commercial and industrial packaging has recorded a strong decline due to a fall in production of industrial and commercial goods.

Spring 2020 saw many European countries reverting to lockdowns to fight the pandemic. According to the International Organisation of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), many automotive companies stopped their production for several weeks. Production numbers in the European automotive sector decreased by more than 23% in 2020 compared to 2019. Consequently, the demand for plastic in the automotive industry fell in 2020 and the pickup of production since the middle of this year could not make up for the losses of the first half of 2020.

First estimates of the building and construction sector show that the plastic demand of this sector remained stable.

In a nutshell, these first estimated figures show the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the European plastics sector. With its around 1.6 million people, working in more than 55,000 companies, most of which are SMEs, the industry streamlined its capacities to supporting and supplying those at the frontline of the fight against the pandemic in essential sectors, such as healthcare, food and beverage or fresh water supply.

More figures to come in the next edition of the Plastics the Facts, end of 2021.

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