North American polypropylene resin makers will look back on 2015 with fondness. But makers of polystyrene, expanded PS and PVC in the region might not want to look back at all.
Sales of PP in the region grew 5.3 percent in 2015 to more than 17.2 billion pounds, according to the American Chemistry Council in Washington. Domestic market growth of 6.3 percent was tempered somewhat by a drop of almost 23 percent in export sales.
Some regional PP end markets surpassed that 6.3 percent growth average. Sales of the material into injection molded housewares soared 12.2 percent, while PP sales into sheet jumped 13.6 percent. PP sales into oriented film were up 7.3 percent.
North American PS sales, however, ticked down 1.1 percent to just under 4.4 billion pounds, according to ACC. Separate domestic and export sales totals for PS are not released.
Among PS end markets, consumer/institutional lost the most ground in North America in 2015, with sales down 9.8 percent. Electrical/electronic provided a bright spot with 1.7 percent growth.
Resellers also bought 6 percent more PS in North America in 2015. Food packaging/food service again was the largest end market for PS in 2015 — contributing 62 percent of sales — but that sector posted growth of only 0.1 percent.
U.S./Canadian EPS makers in 2015 managed to hold sales flat at just under 945 million pounds, according to ACC. Domestic sales actually improved 0.5 percent, but that growth was negated by a 3.1 percent drop in export sales. EPS sales into the domestic shape market surged 12.4 percent for the year.
PVC makers in the U.S. and Canada also had a challenging 2015, as sales declined 1.9 percent to just over 14.7 billion pounds, according to ACC. A domestic sales drop of 2.1 percent was softened by a decline of only 1.5 percent in export sales.
Lower-than-expected growth in the U.S. construction market played a big role in U.S./Canadian PVC sales for 2015. The market recorded more than 1 million housing starts, but has been slow to recover from the recession of 2007-09. That's a big deal for PVC, which generated almost 62 percent of its domestic sales from construction-related uses in 2015.
PVC's flagship rigid pipe and tubing end market — with a 45 percent share of domestic sales in 2015 — saw demand slide almost 1 percent. But that was enough to negate most of the PVC volume growth recorded by siding and related uses (up 5.6 percent), extruded windows and doors (up 1.8 percent) and fencing and decking (up 3.4 percent).
PP's 5.3 percent 2015 growth rate was a turnaround from the 0.2 percent loss it recorded in 2014. The 1.1 percent sales drop seen by PS in 2015 wasn't as bad as its 2014 sales loss of 3.2 percent.
For EPS, a flat 2015 sales year was a step down from 5.1 percent growth in 2014. PVC's 1.9 percent 2015 sales loss was slightly higher than its 2014 sales loss of 1.7 percent.