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American Chemistry Council reports 2012 resin statistics

By: Frank Esposito

February 20, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Full-year 2012 results were positive for PVC and high density polyethylene sales in the U.S. and Canada, but less so for other commodity resins.

PVC led the way in the commodity field last year with sales growth of 5.7 percent, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. That total included domestic sales growth of just over 8 percent and export sales growth of almost 2 percent. PVC sales have benefited from an improved U.S. construction market and by a much-larger export market than in past years.

Among major PVC end markets, rigid pipe and tubing led the way in 2012 with sales growth of more than 12 percent, according to ACC. That category accounted for almost 44 percent of domestic PVC sales last year.

HDPE also had a solid year in 2012 with sales growth of 2.2 percent. Domestic sales growth of almost 3 percent was dampened by a 0.5 percent drop in export sales. Fast-growing end markets for HDPE included sheet (up 13.6 percent), packaging film (up 8.7 percent) and injection molded pails (up 6.8 percent).

Polypropylene and low density PE each posted 2012 sales growth of less than 1 percent, according to ACC. PP saw domestic sales growth of more than 1 percent lessened by an 11 percent drop in export sales. Domestic PP sales were boosted by a jump of more than 23 percent for PP sales into injection molded cups and containers.

Conversely, LDPE export sales growth of 8.5 percent in 2012 helped erase a 1.5 percent domestic sales drop. One domestic sales bright spot for LDPE was non-packaging film - including construction and agriculture - where sales grew more than 10 percent.

Linear LDPE and polystyrene each saw U.S./Canadian sales declines in 2012 vs. 2011, according to ACC. LLDPE sales dipped 1.7 percent, with sales of PS - including Mexico - sliding 3.5 percent.

A domestic sales gain of almost 4 percent for LLDPE was wiped out by a 17 percent drop in export sales. The domestic LLDPE market was led by a gain of almost 13 percent for sales into injection molding, including lids, caps and closures.

The struggles of the PS market continued in 2012. ACC does not split out that market's domestic/export split, but sales into its dominant food packaging/food service end market fell one percent. That category accounted for more than 58 percent of North American PS sales last year.

In sheer volume of pounds, HDPE was the region's largest commodity resin in 2012 with sales of just over 17.6 billion pounds. PP had the second-highest volume with 16.5 billion pounds, followed by PVC with almost 15.3 billion pounds.

Next in line on the 2012 sales volume chart were LLDPE with just over 13.3 billion pounds, LDPE at almost 6.8 billion pounds and PS with just over 4.5 billion pounds.

The impact of export sales was strongest in the regional PVC market during 2012, as exports accounted for just over 37 percent of the U.S./Canadian sales total. Exports accounted for between 17-22 percent of HDPE, LDPE and LLDPE sales for the year. In PP, exports accounted for less than 5 percent of sales. No 2012 export total for PS was released, but in 2011, exports accounted for almost 4 percent of regional sales.