logo

US resin sector up 85 percent in 10 years

By: Gayle S. Putrich

July 24, 2013

WASHINGTON – The plastics resin sector in the United States generates $87.1 billion in revenues annually, having grown by more than 85 percent in the last decade according to a new report from the American Chemistry Council.

In addition to being a robust industry, the report says the 54,900 people directly employed by plastic resin manufacturers are doing better than a vast majority of their counterparts in other industries.

“The average plastic resin manufacturer employee earns $85,400 annually [in 2012], more than 73 percent more than the average wage for all industries,” the report says.

“The report shows that the plastics industry is growing and creating good jobs,” said Steve Russell, ACC’s vice president of plastics, in a news release. “It’s no surprise because plastics deliver great value. And, plastic makers will continue to make significant investments for further growth.”

While it has grown, the plastics industry has also gotten greener, according to the ACC. “Since 1974…. fuel and power use per pound of plastic has improved 63 percent,” the report says. “And while plastic resins do consume energy in their production, their use in homes, vehicles, and packaging reduces energy consumption well beyond that required to produce them.”

Most of the plastic produced in the U.S. ends up taking the form of packaging and consumer goods and stays in the country, though nearly 15 billion pounds of thermoplastic resin was exported in 2012, PVC being the most popular of the resin exports at 40 percent, to the tune of $31.2 billion.

The report also attempts to quantify how much of a boon the recent shale gas deposit discoveries in the U.S. have been for the plastics industry in terms of production capacity, export capacity and job growth.

“Between 2005 and 2012, the US went from being among the highest cost producers of ethylene (a key plastic building block) to among the lowest cost producers globally,” the report says. “To capitalize on the US shale advantage, nearly $80 billion dollars of new investment in new chemical manufacturing capacity has been announced, including $7 billion of investments in new thermoplastic plastic resin capacity. These investments will add more than 25 percent capacity in thermoplastic resins.”

The report anticipates a 25 percent increase in U.S. thermoplastic resin capacity and a more than 10 percent increase in thermoplastic resin exports as a share of production over then next year as a direct result of dropping North American liquid natural gas prices.