The Future of Plastics in Packaging

Published: 6 May 2003
pack fig 1.gif
pack fig 1.gif


By Vivek Tapuriah
State of the Industry
Plastic is the most important material in the U.S. Packaging industry, accounting for roughly 50 percent of the industry's revenues. The total US packaging market is approximately $80 billion.
The plastic packaging industry consists of rigid and flexible plastics. Flexible packaging consists of bags, bubble wraps, tubes, stand-up pouches etc. Rigid plastic packaging comprises of blisters, bottles, cartridges, pallets, trays etc. Plastics have increasingly replaced traditional materials in this sector due to their lightweight and superior functionality. The conversions have slowed over the last two years and the growth is generally expected to be in line with economic growth.
The five major polymers used in packaging are polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
Packaging accounts for the single largest segment of total plastics usage in the U.S. at around 25 percent of the total plastic market volume. Thermoplastics are the primary form of plastic used in packaging; the only thermoset resin in wide use for packaging is epoxy for adhesives. Typical packaging applications for LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene) include bag rollstock, container lids, food bags, pallet wrap and produce bags. Applications for PP (polypropylene) are caps and closures, bottles, dairy containers, microwavable containers, syringes and snack food packaging. HDPE (high density polyethylene) is typically used for detergent and personal care product bottles, gallon milk and water bottles. The use of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) resins for bottles and jars is growing at an accelerating pace.

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