Rising Need for Energy Drives Global Plastics to Oil Market

The inevitable march of the world towards urbanization and industrialization has produced many boons for mankind, but it has also created one of the greatest evils mankind has had to face: plastics and, more importantly, plastic waste.

Plastics are organic polymers that have gained massive popularity in the modern world due to their flexibility of application and design. They can be molded into virtually any shape imaginable, they are largely inert to chemicals, and provide excellent barrier properties against moisture, thermal radiation, dirt, etc. Due to these properties, plastics are commonly used in various applications, such as in construction, packaging, furniture, and toys.

However, the widespread usage of plastics, particularly in applications that almost necessarily entail the creation of waste materials, such as packaging, has resulted in growing volumes of plastic waste. Even though most plastics are nominally organic polymers, they are not biodegradable. This causes plastic waste to accumulate in dumping sites, causing pollution. Recycling plastic is a feasible solution of disposing of plastic waste, since plastic is moldable into various shapes and durable, but the conversion of plastic waste into oil has emerged in recent years as a promising solution to get rid of plastic waste.

Availability of Recycling Avenues Driving Plastics to Oil Market in China, Japan

Asia Pacific giants China and Japan are among the largest consumers of plastics on a global level, in addition to being home to the 2nd and 3rd largest consumer markets in the world (in 2013, according to the UN Statistics Division). This leads to massive volumes of plastic waste. These two countries have among the largest plastic recycling systems in the world and have introduced it on a commercial level. Plastic waste from other countries such as India, Australia, and many African and Latin American countries is often sent to China for recycling.

The availability of cheap labor in these countries, particularly China, aids the recycled plastics and plastics to oil market, since significant manpower is needed to sort plastic waste before it is either recycled or converted into oil.

However, recycling practices in China have recently come under the scanner after it emerged earlier this year that China is responsible for up to 30% of the world’s plastic pollution in oceans.

Demand for Power Drives Plastics to Oil Market

The rising global population and the consequent hike in the demand for energy has fueled the demand for plastics to oil conversion. Since natural reserves of petroleum are dwindling and unconventional oil and gas extraction methods have gained momentum, the easy availability of petroleum through plastics hasn’t gone unnoticed. Plastics are made of petrochemicals and thus can be converted into usable petroleum fuels.

The rising demand for energy all over the world will continue to drive the global plastics to oil market in the coming years.


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