One of the most important trends in the supply of polystyrene has been the rationalization and/or divestment of assets, especially in the mature markets of North America and West Europe. As per a report by CMAI, the trend in those regions has been driven by declining domestic markets, the migration of consuming industries and a lack of export competitiveness. Asia has needed massive consolidation for some time but the industry hardly seems to have the energy left to renew itself, as those in the developed markets have already. On the demand side, the most important problem facing the polystyrene business is the almost uninterrupted decline it has experienced. PS is a mature product that is heavily exposed to price sensitive end-uses having a number of competitive pressures from alternative materials, both natural and synthetic.
EPS is the second largest styrene derivative. Polystyrene, EPS and ABS are the three largest styrenic derivatives representing nearly 75% of styrene demand. Demand growth for EPS during most of this decade has been rather spectacular, excluding the recent economic collapse. From 2000 to 2007, the world EPS market growth outpaced global GDP growth of 3.2%. This is even more impressive when you consider that this includes a period where economic growth stalled in the early part of this decade. The recent economic recession, however, has taken a toll, with demand decreasing over the last 2 years. The combination of "no growth" in polystyrene and decent growth in expandable polystyrene has caused EPS to grow from the position of 14% of styrene demand in 2000 to almost 20% of styrene demand in 2009. Over time, expandable polystyrene is becoming a more important part of the styrenics demand picture.