Polystyrene is a widely used, well-established plastic that can be encountered in many situations in everyday life. In this recently published study, the market research institute Ceresana analyzes and examines the development of the global market for polystyrene. That this market is worth a detailed analysis becomes obvious simply by the fact that revenues generated with polystyrene are likely to rise to approx. US$26 billion in 2020.
Almost every second tonne of polystyrene is processed in Asia-Pacific. Thus, this region is the most important sales market, followed by the industrialized regions North America and Western Europe. Ceresana forecasts the focus of polystyrene demand to continue to shift towards Asia-Pacific, at the expense of saturated industrialized markets in North America and Western Europe. Emerging countries, on the other hand, are profiting from a continuous increase of wealth and a moderate population growth. Even though Asia-Pacific is expected to expand its position as worldwide largest consumer, Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and South America are also projected to develop at dynamic growth rates.
In the past, capacity utilization of polystyrene plants averaged at only about 75%. This resulted in an, in part, considerable reduction of capacities and restructuring undertaken by manufacturers. Industrialized countries in Western Europe and North America as well as Japan and South Korea have responded to the excess capacities by reducing production volume and refocusing on growth markets.
By now, manufacturers are more focused on quality than on quantity. Important characteristics of polystyrene, e.g. surface gloss, impact resistance, resistance to stress cracking or flow properties are to be optimized, thus allowing for an increased range of application. "In order to satisfy the rising global demand, however, production capacity has to increase again. Hence, the global production capacity will be expanded by about 700,000 tonnes until 2020", explains Oliver Kutsch, CEO of Ceresana. More than 90% of these new capacities will be created in Asia-Pacific.
The Packaging industry in particular consumes a large amount of polystyrene, in the subsegment food packaging in particular. Additionally, polystyrene is often used in the casings of monitors, televisions, printers, and other electrical devices as well as consumer goods.
Individual application areas for polystyrene are projected to develop at highly similar growth rates during the upcoming eight years. Ceresana forecasts the highest growth rates for the segment Electrical & Electronics; market volume is projected to increase by, on average, 2.8% per year. Development in the Packaging sector will be only slightly less dynamic. As a consequence, E&E applications will account for approx. one third of global demand for polystyrene in 2020.