US demand for specialty plastic additives is forecast to rise 4.5% pa to 4 bln lbs in 2017, with market value reaching US$7.3 bln, as per Freedonia. Advances will be fueled by an improved macroeconomic climate, which will boost overall demand for plastics in a number of markets. In particular, a strong rebound in construction activity following the severe declines of the recession-impacted 2007-2012 period will create significant opportunities in the construction market, which is anticipated to generate over two-thirds of new demand for plastic additives through 2017.
The outlook for the key plasticizers segment is tied closely to that for flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, which comprise the vast majority of demand. Although phthalates will continue to dominate the plasticizer market, more rapid gains are anticipated for non-phthalate types due to ongoing concerns regarding the health and environmental risks associated with phthalate exposure. Spurred by mounting unease among consumers, manufacturers are phasing out the use of controversial compounds such as diethylhexyl phthalate plasticizers in favor of higher molecular weight phthalates and phthalate-free formulations with better safety profiles. Flame retardants dominate the protective additives segment in volume terms and are projected to offer the best growth prospects, spurred by their utilization in construction products and related industries such as wire and cable. Health concerns about halogenated flame retardants, some of which are being voluntarily phased out, have resulted in a shift in product mix toward non-halogenated alternatives. Among the other protective additives, demand for heat stabilizers will rebound strongly based on their use in rigid PVC products, while antioxidants will benefit from strengthening demand for polyolefins. Among the property modifiers, impact modifiers represent the largest and fastest growing product type. These additives are chiefly employed in rigid PVC construction products and will therefore benefit from a turnaround in construction spending through 2017. This rebound will also provide opportunities for colorants in wood-plastic composite (WPC) lumber applications and chemical blowing agents utilized in the production of cellular PVC for decking, molding, and trim. Moreover, increased building activity will fuel demand for processing aids such as mold releases and lubricants, as well as compatibilizers and coupling agents, which are utilized in the rapidly expanding WPC lumber industry.
PVC is the leading consumer of specialty plastic additives, accounting for a larger share of the market than all other resins combined. Through 2017, PVC is also projected to achieve the most rapid gains, stemming from the widespread use of rigid PVC products in the rebounding construction industry. Expanding opportunities for rigid PVC will propel demand for additives such as impact modifiers and lubricants, while more moderate advances are anticipated for flexible PVC additives such as plasticizers and antimicrobials. Among other resins, polyolefins are expected to offer strong growth prospects. In particular, additives demand will benefit from polyethylene’s position as the predominant resin used in WPC products, as well as the increasing popularity of polypropylene in automotive components.