Low density polyethylene (LDPE) is one of the most commonly produced plastics and mainly used for packaging. According to a new study published by Ceresana, low-density polyethylene worth almost US$33 bln was sold worldwide in 2013. Ceresana expects global sales to rise by 1.5% p.a. until 2021.
Asia-Pacific single-handedly processed about 7.1 mln tons of LDPE in 2013. About 58% of this amount were consumed in China. Asian countries, China and India in particular, and the Middle East will remain the largest growth markets for LDPE. Due to strong competition by other types of polyethylene, future growth rates for LDPE demand are likely to fall short of overall economic development. The LDPE markets in Western Europe and North America are largely saturated already and will grow only slightly. Several world regions are rapidly increasing their production capacities for LDPE. LDPE output in the Middle East is projected to rise at a high growth rate of 5% per year. New large-scale petrochemical complexes will commence production in upcoming years. These are often joint ventures of large international companies and regional enterprises. Various larger productions sites are to be constructed in North America and Asia-Pacific as well. Western Europe, on the other hand, will see the closure of LDPE plants.
LDPE is most commonly used for the production of films. About 63% of total demand stem from film production, especially packaging films as well as bags and sacks. Other important applications are rigid packaging and construction products, which can profit from new investments in infrastructure around the globe. In Asia, on the other hand, it is especially films, LDPE packaging films in particular, that offer the largest growth potential, since Asian countries are increasingly adapting to Western standards for packaged food. In a global comparison, film extrusion is the most common technology for processing LDPE. Other technologies, namely extrusion coating, injection molding, and other processes like blow molding and rotomolding, account for a market share of only 37%. The various world regions show only minor differences in regard to processing technologies. For example, extrusion coating is disproportionally often used in North America, while Eastern European countries use large amounts of LDPE not only in film extrusion, but also injection molding.