Global demand for plastic films is forecast to grow by 4% per annum to 2021 reaching 73.3 million tonnes

Global demand for plastic films is predicted to reach 61.3 million tonnes for the calendar year 2016, and forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 4% during the forecast period 2016–21 reaching 73.3 million tonnes.

According to Smithers Rapra’ new report – The Future of Global Plastic Films to 2021 – the development of the global plastic films market is dependent upon a number of socioeconomic  trends, ranging from economic influences, lifestyle and demographics changes to the development of new materials and packaging technologies and emerging trends in end-use markets. These have enhanced the value of plastic films and made them even more attractive to brand owners, converters and consumers around the world.

The trends of sustainability and lightweighting continue to account for the downgauging of plastic films to accommodate both suppliers suffering from reduced margins as a result of low polymer prices, and consumer demands for reduced packaging due to environmental issues and lifestyle changes. Many traditional plastic films however have reached the limits of this trend, and will begin to be promoted in terms of the precycling benefits of these films versus rigid films and packaging, since once they are produced, they generate little or no waste and can therefore reduce waste at source, so that it is eliminated before it is even created.

Philip Drachman report author

Lifestyle changes are driving consumer demand for novel packaged products. As the middle class has grown and disposable incomes have risen, so consumers have become increasingly time-constrained, especially in the developed markets over the review period. This has forced them to choose processed and prepared goods that are packaged using lightweight plastic films, which offer greater convenience and portability. Innovative packaging solutions, such as microwaveable packaging, single-serve packs, stand-up pouches and blister packaging have become commonplace and have contributed to the development of plastic films in Western Europe, North America and Australasia.

There is a rapidly increasing demand for packaging materials to provide greater protection to their contents, especially for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries. As the use of plastic films has become more common, concerns have arisen about their ability to allow the exchange of gases and vapours that can compromise the quality and safety of packaged products, and this is being addressed by the introduction of safe, novel barrier films and coatings. Smart materials are also increasingly playing a role in active and intelligent packaging to enhance product shelf life and to provide a visual indication of product status and condition.

In 2015 the largest segment of the plastic film market was automated packaging film, with sales reaching 20 million tonnes. The second largest plastic film market segment was plastic bags and sacks with total sales reaching 19.7 million tonnes, but this is forecast to maintain the lowest growth rate over the next five years because of an ever-increasing environmental lobby regarding the use of self-service shopping bags – many areas around the world have imposed bag bans or charged a levy whenever such bags are used.

The Future of Global Plastic Films to 2021 is guided by Smithers Rapra’s in-house primary research and supported by extensive industry data, which  underpins both our appraisal of existing market conditions and our forecasting. Primary research was based on interviews with industry personnel across the value chain, including leading suppliers, manufacturers and end users. Discussions with industry influencers supplemented this research. Secondary research was founded on an extensive literature review of market and company reports, magazine and journal abstracts, trends, and market information.


The Future of Global Plastic Films to 2021 is available for £4,200.
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