Applied Market Information – Review of polyethylene markets in Europe

UK • The latest edition of AMI’s review of polyethylene markets in Europe assesses eight processing technologies and over 50 end use applications on a country by country basis.

Polyethylene consumption has surpassed pre-recession levels with industrial packaging applications reaping the rewards from improved manufacturing productivity and applications that serve the construction industry also growing well. Packaging markets are anticipated to become increasingly scrutinised which, combined with ongoing downgauging, is projected to constrain the overall volume growth of polyethylene.

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However, the industry faces a new challenge! The circular economy has already started to reshape the polymer supply industry with resin suppliers engaging in downstream integration with recycling technologies. EU policy has recently promoted the use of increased volumes of recycled material in products where possible and has targeted packaging applications as a focal point for enhanced recyclability. This has driven a rapid rise in consumption of reclaimed/reprocessed polyethylene, innovations in product design and end of life treatment options.

Film extrusion has long seen the largest consumption of polyethylene in Europe accounting for over 50% of demand in 2017. There are big differences even amongst the LLDPE varieties which, on the whole, have been and will continue to advance rapidly. The fortunes of metallocene resins will be especially bright while more well-established varieties such as C8 will experience more limited growth. Coextrusion technology will continue to drive the use of sophisticated resins while locality and commercial relations are also key in resin selection and can result in processors engineering surprisingly different formulations to meet product specifications.

Further developments in material selection are occurring in blow moulding applications, where bimodal HDPE resins that offer enhanced properties are seeing increased use in containers in the small to mid-size bracket. However, recycled polyethylene is the standout material within blow moulding with this market expected to champion the uptake of reprocessed polyethylene in the midterm to 2022.

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