How Big Is The Plastics Industry?

The plastics industry is one of the world's largest, accounting for over $541.5 billion in total sales and supplier sales when including suppliers. Direct employment in the industry provides jobs to more than 1.5 million people in the European Union alone. The industry has experienced considerable growth, with projections of a USD 1,907 million market by 2023 through advancements in 3D printing plastics technology and innovation.

Not only is the plastics industry large and economically significant, but it is also an important source of innovative products and materials with use cases across a variety of industries. Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing offers coverage of the very latest developments in injection molding, extrusion, thermoforming, and other plastic processing technologies. Combined with rapid prototyping techniques such as 3D printing, this makes for a powerful combination that bring advanced capabilities to both small businesses and large corporations alike.

However, despite all these positives associated with the plastics industry, it also presents significant environmental challenges in terms of plastic waste production. The industry has come under increasing pressure to develop sustainable alternatives that reduce its environmental footprint whilst continuing to foster innovation and drive growth in the sector. Significant progress has been made is reducing plastic pollution but there remains much work to be done to ensure positive long-term sustainability outcomes for our planet.

Key Takeaways

  • The plastics industry is one of the largest industries in the world, with 2020 shipments totaling $394.7 billion.
  • When including suppliers, the industry's impact on the global economy increases to $541.5 billion.
  • The industry provides direct employment to over 1.5 million people in the European Union alone.
  • Projections for the 3D printing plastics market are expected to reach USD 1,907 million by 2023, growing at a CAGR.
  • Despite challenges such as plastic waste and environmental impact, technology and innovation continue to drive growth in the industry.
  • Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing covers the latest developments in injection molding, extrusion, thermoforming, and other forms of plastics processing.
  • Overall, the plastics industry remains a vital part of the global economy with a significant impact on employment and innovation.

The Market Is Growing

The global plastics industry continues to experience expansion, with the market estimated to be valued at over USD 643.37 billion by 2029. Growth in this sector is being propelled by rising plastic consumption across a range of industries, including construction, automotive, and electrical & electronics. Factors such as regulations enforcing lower gross vehicle weights to improve fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions are driving the demand for plastics as a substitute for traditional materials like aluminum and steel when constructing parts for automobiles.

Infrastructure demands and the need to cater for a growing population in emerging nations are stimulating increased government spending on construction projects. Strict regulations applied to depleting or non-recyclable materials such as metals and wood produce an incentive to use products made of plastic due their easy installation, cost savings and aesthetic appeal. Furthermore, plastics have 85% less specific gravity compared to metals which offers environmentally friendly solutions due to its weight reduction properties as well as cost benefits when used in automotive or construction industries.

The pandemic, too, has affected the industry as consumer demand increases with more demand for medical supplies such as ventilators, testing equipment and syringes which all require plastics components. With these factors taken into account, it’s no surprise that the market is projected to have healthy growth over the next few years.

Plastics Industry Is One Of The Largest in the US

The plastics industry is one of the largest in the US, with a total of 1.5 million jobs related to it and an overall shipment value of $600.4 billion for 2021. As per the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), since 1937 they have been working to make its members and the industry more globally competitive. This has been done through education initiatives, insightful events, networking opportunities, and policy advocacy.

The U.S. plastics industry stands at the sixth number in terms of manufacturing based on its growth rate of 3.2% from 2020 to 2021 - more than twice the growth of manufacturing as a whole (1.5%) noted by Matt Seaholm, President and CEO of PLASTICS. He also said that plastic is remarkable because it saves energy by being lightweight and efficient to manufacture and transport and also saves lives through protective gear and medical devices etc.

The industry continues to innovate and develop new technologies such as increasing recycled content, reducing material usage, designing for recyclability, improved performance in protecting food and beverages thus reducing waste drastically as well as continuing their success in hosting NPE2024: The Plastics Show-the largest plastics trade show in all of Americas.

These facts clearly demonstrate that plastic industry is significantly big in the US economy by providing nearly a million jobs with booming shipments value year after year and most importantly having an impact on daily lives with their innovative products.


The plastics industry is experiencing an enormous surge in competition and size in recent years. Despite Europe and North America having once led the global plastics production, this is no longer the case. China has surpassed them as the world’s top producer, with a 25% share of plastics manufacturing compared to Europe (20%) and the US (19.5%). When combined, the Americas and Europe still account for about 45 percent of world plastic production, equal to Asia’s share.

This increase in demand has been ongoing for over 50 years, with a 3.7% growth rate observed between 2012-2017. In 2013 alone, 300 Mtons were produced worldwide. The European plastics industry alone is responsible for around 350 billion EUR in turnover annually, and it employs 1.45 million people across 62,000 companies (mainly small/medium sized firms). The majority of this demand originates from just five countries: Germany (25.4%), Italy (14.3%), France (9.7%), UK (7.6%), Spain (7.5%).

The US plastics industry follows suit with its own impressive stats coming close behind China in terms of size. Meaningful employment opportunities are generated by the 1 million+ people employed by 16,000 manufacturing sites where its yearly turnover matches that of Europe at $380 billion USD each year - with an added $13 billion trade surplus. Total production volume rests at 55 Mtons per year within the US borders alone proving how significant an industry it has become..

As a result of decreased energy prices within US borders, their levels of competitiveness have significantly improved on a global scale dramatically increasing competition within this market overall including both domestic and international players making the plastics industry larger than ever before!

Plastic Manufacturers Are Poised To Grow

Plastics have revolutionized the way we manufacture, package, and consume products. In 2020, the global plastics industry was estimated to be worth $600 billion. From medical equipment to food packaging, its importance is undeniable - and it isn't showing any signs of slowing down.

One sector of the plastics industry that is poised for growth is plastic manufacturing. With ever-increasing consumer demand for new-and-improved products in all sectors of manufacturing, plastic manufacturers must continuously innovate in order to keep up with their competitors. This puts them in a prime position for growth as they meet the various needs presented by different markets across the globe.

The current global economic conditions create an even greater opportunity for growth for plastic manufacturers. With trade restrictions and tariffs affecting supply chains and customer sourcing, companies are now turning to plastic manufacturers to fill the gap. Plastics can offer cost savings when compared to other materials, making it the ideal choice in many production scenarios where customers are looking to reduce their overhead costs. And with a variety of options such as injection molding and 3D printing technology, plastic manufacturers can provide cost effective solutions while also providing high quality results.

Overall, plastic manufacturers have a bright future ahead of them as long as they are willing to innovate and come up with creative solutions that address their customers’ pains points and provide them with value-for-money services. By leveraging new technologies and staying on top of industry trends, plastic manufacturers can capitalize on their potential for growth and take their business to the next level.


To answer the question of how large and influential the plastics industry is, it is first important to consider its impact on the global economy. The plastics industry is one of the largest in the world, having a huge impact on global trade in 2020, with $394.7 billion in shipments and $541.5 billion when suppliers are included. This has a significant effect on employment, providing direct jobs to more than 1.5 million people just in the European Union.

The plastics industry also faces significant competition, as new technologies and advances in plastic manufacturing continue to drive growth in this sector. These advancements have led to Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing covering developments such as injection molding, extrusion, and thermoforming processes for plastic production. Despite some challenges, industry projections for 3D printing plastics markets are expected to grow to USD 1,907 million by 2023 with a CAGR growth rate of 7.3%.

At the same time, manufacturers of plastics must face their environmental accountability and develop sustainable solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. Plastic waste has become a major environmental problem that the plastics industry alone contributes a great deal of pollution towards.

In conclusion, it is evident that the plastics industry remains an influential part of the global economy with far-reaching implications for employment opportunities worldwide through direct employment and technology innovations such as 3D printing markets. It also highlights the need for sustainable solutions which reduce levels of plastic waste and protect our environment from further damage.