Global demand for PET and other rigid plastic packaging formats will accelerate through the second half of 2021, according to the most recent market analysis by Smithers.

As detailed in the report, titled The Future of Rigid Plastic Packaging to 2026, consuming 58.83 million tonnes in 2020, there was only a marginal increase in demand in a year severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Total value in this market will reach $193.2 billion in 2021, up from the $181.9 billion seen in 2020 (a 6.2 per cent increase) as the virus threat recedes and normal economic and retail activity resumes. 

Beyond 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 4.2 per cent will push the global market to $237.1 billion in 2026, with Asia leading the rise in consumption.

Total volume consumption worldwide will rise by 3.5 per cent across 2021-26 to reach 73.1 million tonnes.

“As this happens, converters and material suppliers are having to respond to regulatory, brand owner and consumer demands for more sustainable packaging,” according to Smithers. 

“In the short term, this is seeing a focus on securing and using higher percentages of rPET in consumer packs, with a particular emphasis on optimising grade purity to allow their use in food contact applications.” 

The report says there are moves to adapt better mechanical recycling of other common rigid plastic grades, such as PP, as well as developing new chemical recycling platforms and biopolymer materials. There is also renewed R&D spending for developing superior barrier coating technologies to improve shelf life and widen the applications open to rigid plastic.

“This will be an important potential differentiator, as plastic packaging faces competition from a new generation of fibre-based designs, developed and marketed on their green credentials.” 

Across 2021-26, Smithers’ analysis shows the greatest increase in demand will be for PE, PP and some specialty plastic blends.

The analysis found that the end-use sectors most affected in 2020 were cosmetics and industrial goods, while use in food packaging remained steady, and there was an inevitable surge for pharmaceuticals and healthcare. 

“Across 2021-26, use in food and drink applications will continue to be central to the industry, along with enduring elevated use with healthcare products, and a return of demand for cosmetics formats,” the report claims. 

“Across this period there will be an increased use of form-fill-seal equipment to meet the need for more single-serve rigid polymer packs, and as more converters embrace the versatility and speed such machinery delivers to converters. 

“Blow moulding will remain the most common production method – accounting for 59.5 per cent of global production by weight in 2021. In contrast, injection moulding and thermoforming will lose market share over the Smithers forecast period.“ 

Quantitative analysis is presented in an exclusive dataset for 2016-26 with over 250 tables and figures, by value and volume. This segments the market across all key metrics:

  • Polymer type (PE, PET, PP, PS, PVC, EPS, other)
  • Packaging format (bottles, trays and containers, tubs and pots, other)
  • Production process (blow moulding, injection moulding, thermoforming, form-fill-seal, other)
  • Eighteen end-use applications
  • Twenty-one regional and leading national markets

The definitive business strategy guide is available to purchase now and is priced $6500. Visit the Smithers website for more.

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