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Recycling brings opportunities for the US plastics industry amid challenges
Source:Adsale Plastics Network    Editor:JK    Date:23.Oct.2020

Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) has issued The 2020 Size and Impact Report, offering an outlook for the US plastics industry in 2019 as well as forecasts for employment and shipments. 

The report indicates that the US plastics industry remains one of the economy’s largest sectors and it continued to grow in 2019. However, the growth in the industry has been facing serious challenges as the global economy slows due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus far, demand has slowed at a higher rate than supply.

Real plastics industry shipments are expected to decrease in 2020 and recover at rates that depend on different scenarios. The most optimistic outcome would be that real plastics shipments bounce back in 2020 and thereafter revert back to the 2.3% annual growth observed since 2010.


Tailwinds will likely come from sustained manufacturing of consumer essentials such food and packaging, personal and healthcare, and electronics — all of which use plastics materials extensively — against the backdrop of stable hydrocarbon feedstock supplies in the US.

Plastics recycling leads to opportunities

Perc Pineda, PhD, PLASTICS’ Chief Economist shared his viewpoints in response to the situation and development of the US plastics industry, “Innovation is important for companies to stay ahead. The material has not been fully utilized yet and they should keep pushing the limit of what plastics can do.”


“Plastics recycling is on the rise due to increased awareness of sustainability. The US energy policy may drive manufacturers to look for other alternative materials to reduce cost, including recycled materials,” added Perc Pineda.


Tony Radoszewski, President and CEO of PLASTICS, also commented, “To protect jobs as well as the environment, we at PLASTICS support domestic and international infrastructure improvements to reuse, repurpose and recycle more material. This would help to preserve and extend the benefits of plastic and plastic products, and create innovation, jobs and economic growth, important to the current recovery.”

Total shipments reached US$550 bn in 2019

As documented by US government data, it operated 15,746 manufacturing establishments, employed 795,000 people and made shipments worth US$364 billion in 2019. These excluded establishments producing captive plastic products or supplying goods and services to the plastics industry.


When captives were included in their definition of the plastics industry, the number rose to over one million people in 2019. Another 545,000 people were employed by upstream industries that supplied the industry, which brought the total year 2019 employment total to 1.55 million — 1.0% of the U.S. non-farm workforce.


In addition, the plastics industry generated US$432 billion in shipments in 2019. Another US$118 billion was generated by upstream supplies to industries, bringing the total shipments of the plastics industry to US$550 billion.


Real (inflation-adjusted) plastics manufacturing shipments grew at a 1.1% annual rate from 2012 to 2019, while real value added grew 2.1% annually.


Employment is expected to slow in 2020


The report noted that plastics manufacturing employment grew 1.6% per year from 2012 to 2019. This outpaced manufacturing as a whole, which saw employment grow only 1.1% per year during the same period.


At the state level, California's plastics industry workforce was the most numerous at an estimated 79,700 workers in 2019. Indiana and Michigan featured the highest concentration of plastics industry workers, each with estimated 16 plastics employees for every 1,000 non-farm workers.


The US plastics industry employment is expected to slow this year as some plastics manufacturing sectors have fallen by 0.2% in 2020. Skilled labor shortages will continue to be a major challenge in the years ahead.


Because of labor shortages, all manufacturing facilities, including those involved with plastics, are expected to increase their investments in labor-saving equipment and technology. However, uncertainty over the pace of economic recovery will limit capital expenditure in the near-term.



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