DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — The U.S. plastics industry has nearly recovered to pre-recession levels, and is enjoying a strong trade surplus thanks in large part to the resin sector.
And since the U.S. resin sector is growing thanks to inexpensive shale gas feedstocks, the prospects for plastics are strong.
William Carteaux, president and CEO of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., presented that message — and fresh data on the size and growth of the U.S. plastics industry — at an Oct. 17 news conference at K 2013.
"When you look at the impact of shale gas on the plastics industry, it is a game-changer for us. It has big impacts," Carteaux said.
He reported that the U.S. plastics sector is an especially strong force in global markets, marking a dramatic turnaround from just a few years ago, when experts were predicting that the United States would be a net importer of resin.
In 2012, the value of goods shipped by the U.S. plastics industry was more than $373 billion, which is close to the previous high point in 2006, prior to the Great Recession.
Plastics continue to outpace the overall U.S. manufacturing sector, he said. Between 1980-2012, U.S. plastics grew annually at rates of 0.1 percent in employment (vs. a 1.4 percent drop for all manufacturing), 2.3 percent in real shipments (vs. 0.3 percent), 2.2 percent in real value added (vs. 0.7 percent) and 2.2 percent in productivity (vs. 1.7 percent).
Carteaux highlighted the productivity gain, noting that U.S. plastics processors have invested in automation and equipment to become globally competitive.
"In typical U.S. fashion, we battened down the hatches and did what we had to do," he said.
The U.S. plastics industry retains its position as the country's third largest manufacturing sector, measured by dollar value of output. The No. 1 and No. 2 industries remain oil/natural gas and automotive.
On the trade side, in 2012, the U.S. plastics industry exported goods valued at $58.5 billion. More recent data shows that in the first half of 2013, U.S. plastics industry exports were up 1.8 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
Other data released by SPI at K 2013 included:
- In 2012 the U.S. plastics industry employed 892,000 workers at 15,949 facilities and invested $9.6 billion in new capital equipment – an increase of nearly $1 billion over 2011.
- Mexico is the U.S. plastics industry's largest export market: In 2012, the industry exported $13.6 billion to Mexico and $12.5 billion to Canada. The U.S. plastics industry had a $7.8 billion trade deficit with China in 2012.
- The U.S. plastics industry had a positive trade balance of $13.1 billion in 2012. The total value of U.S. plastics exported goods, the U.S. plastics industry exported goods valued at $58.5 billion, which was down 0.1 percent from 2011.