A report released Wednesday finds the number of polyethylenes in the world has fallen to its lowest level since 1990, as the cost of making the material declines.
The report by the World Economic Forum, a research group based in Geneva, also finds the cost per gram of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in 2016 was $3.70, while the cost for other polymers rose to $2.50.
The report says it is now “too late” to reverse the global trend.
The new report, called the Global Trends in Polyvinyl Chloride Report, examines the impact of rising global prices on polyethylenes, from polyvinylene (PV) to polyvinamide (PVA).
While the world’s economy continues to expand, global demand for polyethylenic (Pv) materials has been slowing.
The cost of producing PV, which is used in plastic and other consumer products, has risen over the last decade.
The new report estimates that by 2040, demand for PV will be below $10 billion a year, down from $28 billion in 2020.
It also notes that the global use of PV materials, including PVC and polyvinoid-based polystyrene (PVS), has decreased from $20 billion in the 1980s to $8 billion in 2016.
The World Economic Forums report notes that “in 2020, the global PV market accounted for only 0.4% of the world GDP, and by 2030 that number is expected to fall to 0.2%.”
That’s a big difference, especially for a country like the United States, which accounted for 23% of global PV sales in 2020, down to 3.4%.
“In contrast, in 2020 the U.S. was the world leader in PV sales with 4.5% of GDP,” the report says.
The Global Trends report notes the number, use and price of PVC, which includes plastic, PVC-based and vinyl PVC products, rose to their lowest level in 2020 at 13.4 billion tonnes.
The market for PVC-containing plastics, including plastic bottles and caps, rose from a little more than 1.4 trillion tonnes in 2020 to 4.9 trillion tonnes, or almost $3 trillion in 2016, according to the report.
“As a result of a growing demand for PVC products and as a result the global supply of PVC products has been shrinking over the past few years, the market is expected continue to shrink in the future,” the study says.
While polyvinole-based PVC is a major component of household plastic bottles, it has fallen in price.
According to the Global Technologies Forum, the price of a plastic bottle that contains polyvinolinone (PVI), the main ingredient in PVC, fell from $3 to $1.30 in 2018.
In 2020, polyvinolones, or PVs, rose in value to $16.75 per tonne, compared to $9.50 in 2018, while polyvinoxanes, or PVC-like polymers, rose at a rate of 10% per year.
The study also points out that the price per gram for PVC, PVC and PVC-polymers has risen from $1 in 2015 to $4 in 2020 and $9 in 2030.
The growth of the polyvinoline industry has contributed to this growth, the report notes.
In 2016, polybrominated biphenyls, or PBBs, a synthetic plastic that is similar to PVC but has higher melting point and is more toxic, reached a value of $5 per ton in the United Kingdom.
By 2020, PBBs reached $3 per ton, up from $2 per ton three years earlier.
In 2016, there were 2,200 tonnes of PBBs in use worldwide.
In the United Nations, there are more than 10,000 PBBs globally, mostly in consumer products and household packaging.
According to the World Trade Organization, the growth in the use of PBB-based plastic is one of the main reasons why the global trade imbalance is growing faster than the world economy.
“It is increasingly difficult to control and monitor the global increase in the consumption of PBAs,” the trade organization said in a 2015 report.
“It is a real challenge to find and remove barriers to trade.”
While the study notes that there is little doubt that polyvineles will continue to be used for some time, the cost has risen significantly over the years.
The World Economic Council estimates that the cost will more than double in 2040 from $8 to $28 per ton of PVC in 2020 due to the rising price of other polyvinides, such as vinyl chloride and polyurethane.
The cost of PVC-free plastic will likely double from $4 to $12 per ton by 2041, the World Forum report says, though that may not happen until 2050