The plastics industry manufactures polymer materials—commonly called plastics—and offers services in plastics important to a range of industries, including packaging, building and construction, electronics, aerospace, manufacturing and transportation.
It is part of the chemical industry. In addition, as mineral oil is the major constituent of plastics, it therefore forms part of the petrochemical industry.
Besides plastics production, plastics engineering is an important part of the industrial sector. The latter field is dominated by engineering plastic as raw material because of its better mechanical and thermal properties than the more widely used commodity plastics.
Further information: Category:Plastics companies
According to PlasticsEurope, the top three markets for plastics are packaging, building and construction, and automotive.
See also: Plastics in the construction industry
Plastics production has been growing globally. The numbers include thermoplastics and polyurethanes, as well as thermosets, adhesives, coatings and sealants and PP-fibers. Data was gathered by PlasticsEurope (PEMRG) and Consultic, or the nova-institute.
However, in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry. Natural gas prices have dropped so low that gas producers were burning if off on-site (not being worth the cost to transport it to cracking facilities). In addition, bans on single-use consumer plastic (in China, the European Union, Canada, and many countries in Africa), and bans on plastic bags (in several states in the USA) has reduced demand for plastics considerably. Many cracking facilities in the USA have been suspended. The petrochemical industry has been trying to save itself by attempting to rapidly expand demand for plastic products worldwide (i.e. through pushbacks on plastic bans and by increasing the number of products wrapped in plastic in countries where plastic use is not already as widespread (i.e. developing nations)).
Further information: Timeline of plastic development