Upbeat Medical Applications Segment of Styrenic Polymers: How it became an Alternative to PVC as the Polymer for Healthcare

The global styrenic polymers market is growing at a CAGR of 7.5% from 2014 to 2020. The market was worth US$2.08 billion in 2013 and will reach a value of US$3.29 billion by 2020. Additionally, the global styrenic polymers market’s net volume in 2013 was 806.7 kilo tons and will continue to grow strongly till 2020.

Styrenic polymers are a family of plastic products that use styrene as their core building block. They are useful due to their various favorable properties, such as thermoplasticity, thermal insulation, low weight, strength, durability, and the ability to choose the level of opacity or color of a product using styrenic polymers. All the above qualities are in heavy demand in the medical industry.

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PVC vs. Styrenic Polymers

The global styrenic polymers market can be segmented into multiple segments, including polystyrene, styrene acrylonitrile, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. In terms of medical applications, polystyrene is the only commodity that is used and thus garners a majority share. SEBS and SBS, other synthetic block copolymers, are also in high demand in medical applications. They are used for the manufacture of devices or device parts, tubes, and bags within the medical industry.

The use of plastics in the medical industry initially came as a replacement option to metallic devices, because plastics offered better durability and lower cost of manufacturing. The most commonly used plastic in the medical industry used to be polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which quickly became a highly popular option. PVC has, however, been facing opposition due to growing environmental concerns regarding the method of its manufacture and disposal of devices and items made using PVC. Then there is the problem of PVC itself showing signs of being toxic. With all these points in view, we can see why styrenic polymers are being favored more in the medical industry today. Not only do styrenic polymer products display superior properties to PVC, but they are also a lot easier to recycle.

Key Players and their Reactions to the Growing PS Demand

Some of the key manufacturers operating in the global styrenic polymers market are Styron LLC, LG Chem Ltd., Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Chi Mei Corporation, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, and Styrolution Group GmbH. In response to the growing demand from the global styrenic polymers market, Asahi Kasei, one of Japan’s biggest chemical companies, said that they would boost the yearly production capacity of its Kawasaki Works manufacturing plant in Kangawa, Japan. The increased capacity will go into manufacturing hydrogenated styrenic thermoplastic elastomer (SEBS). SEBS is a modifier which, when used with polypropylene, makes it more flexible while keeping it transparent. The product is a viable answer towards a growing market need for finding a more flexible alternative for PVC.


Today, perhaps the only reason PVC might be preferred over styrenic polymers is its cheaper cost. Technological advancement will, however, resolve this by lowering the cost of production once demand picks up steam. A high volume of R&D efforts are envisioned to occur in North America, the region that held the largest share in 2013 (39.9%). Even Asia Pacific is showing swift improvements in the global styrenic polymers market in terms of research, production, and usage. It can, therefore, safely be concluded that the global styrenic polymers market is here to stay for quite some time.

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