In 2014, the European plastics industry had a turnover of 350 billion euros. Over 1.45 million employees in the plastics industry work in approximately 62,000 different companies, most of them being SMEs. PVC is one of the most important plastic materials in Europe and is in a class of its own worldwide. The PVC industry has achieved enormous economic importance through its extremely wide range of high-quality products. The prognosis shows continued growth.
Processing in Europe
In 2014, PVC processing in Europe was at 4.9 million tonnes. PVC is one of the most important plastic materials after the polyolefins polyethylene and polypropylene, which have a 48% market share. The outstanding importance of PVC is documented in the chart below.
Worldwide, PVC is in a class of its own. Vinyl is in third place among distributed plastic materials. All predictions point towards the continued growth of plastic materials as well as of PVC.
Large Manufacturers supply the Market
The concentration of suppliers varies according to continent. In China, a large number of small suppliers dominate. In North America, on the other hand, five major manufacturers control 88% of the market. In Europe, the five largest producers supply 71% of PVC. Taking into consideration the forecasted capacities of the largest manufacturers worldwide in 2016, Shin-Etsu is at the top, followed by Inovyn (the joint venture between Solvay and INEOS), Formosa Plastics and Oxychem. In terms of PVC specialities for paste processing, the main European producers are Vinnolit (acquired in 2014 by Westlake), Vestolit (acquired in 2014 by Mexichem) and Inovyn.
Processing shaped by Medium-Sized Companies
The PVC-processing industry in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland is extremely efficient and predominantly characterised by medium-sized businesses. It is very export oriented – just like the plastics manufacturing industry. Several of these PVC converters lead the worldwide market with their products. In particular, these products consist of window profiles and rigid films, as well as medical applications, roofing und sealing membranes, and flexible films. Approximately 1.52 million tonnes of PVC was processed in Germany in 2014.
Important Economic Factor
In 2014, the German plastics industry earned 92 billion euros. The 370,000 employees in the plastics industry work in approximately 3,300 different companies. The Swiss PVC industry contributes considerably to the success of the entire plastics industry. It achieves an annual revenue of approximately 15.1 billion Swiss francs with its 34,000 employees, i.e., more than 16 billion euros in some 850 companies. The Austrian plastics industry employs more than 29,000 employees in approximately 560 companies and generates an annual turnover of 13 billion euros. PVC plays a decisive role in this economically important sector.