Novi, Mich. — U.S. plastics manufacturing is in a slump but will see growth in the long term because plastics will be necessary to achieve a more sustainable future, according to Bill Wood, economics editor at Plastics News.
Wood gave a keynote address on Sept. 20 at the Injection Molding & Design Expo in Novi. His topic was analyzing economic trends and their implications on injection molding, and he emphasized that the data indicates a paradox.
Charts tracking U.S. plastic part production by the U.S. Federal Reserve board show a decline in recent years, indicating the state of the plastics parts industry.
Wood used the data to make a point that, over the past six years, the plastics industry has not made any progress and is continuing to shrink.
"Trends change. Just because this is moving in a certain direction now, there's no guarantee," Wood said.
"Is this chart bearish or bullish? Well, it all depends on who you are," he added.
Wood pointed out that some people would view the decrease of plastic part production as a great trend, while others will view it as a bad thing.
Currently, according to the Federal Reserve, the U.S. is using 76 percent of its total plastics manufacturing capacity and producing parts at a rate that is roughly the same as in 2017, when its capacity utilization was about 84 percent.
Other data, including U.S. housing starts and U.S. motor vehicle monthly assemblies, have also shown decreases over the same period, and some markets have not recovered since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The question is whether the numbers are going to continue to drop or are they poised for an increase. Wood said whether the data indicated a bullish or bearish outlook will depend, but he concluded with an optimistic take.
"Plastics is the answer to sustainability and to a circular economy," Wood said.