Growth in Fossil Fuel Based Polyethylene Production Expected to Continue Through Early 2040s While Focus on Plastic Waste Reduction – Africa’s First Oil, Gas and Energy Landscape Report.


Findings from IHS Markit’s Circular Plastics Service look at when demand will peak for virgin plastics produced from fossil-based feedstocks

Fossil fuel-based polyethylene production is set to peak in the early 2040s, according to the latest findings from the new IHS Markit Circular Plastics service which provides a comprehensive, scenario-based roadmap of how the plastics could move from a linear to a circular economy.

“At some point in the not too distant future, plastics production will begin to disconnect from virgin fossil fuels. How and when will be determined by the willingness of stakeholders to implement a circular model. » – Robin Waters, Director, Circular Plastics Service, IHS Markit

By performing rigorous analyzes based on high-volume global polymer scenarios, IHS Markit’s Circular Plastics Service (CPS) team quantified expected and potential outcomes for key metrics of plastics transition from a linear to circular industrial pattern. One of the main measures of progress is the reduction, and eventually the elimination, of fossil-based raw materials used in the production of plastics.

To project outcomes of this magnitude, the impact of many levers must be considered from both a demand and supply perspective as part of a broader energy transition to net zero emissions. The team considered the specific nuances of demand (both sustainable and unsustainable), changing stakeholder and government regulatory perspectives, investments in recycling technology and infrastructure and concluded that peak demand for fossil-based virgin plastics is decades away.

IHS Markit predicts that global demand for plastics will grow at an average annual rate of 2.7% through 2050. Factors that may impact this growth rate include regulatory restrictions such as bans, material substitution ( for example, paper, glass, metal, etc.) and packaging. a design that eliminates the excessive use of materials as well as changes in consumer behavior. Widespread adoption of mechanical recycling has the potential to moderate the growth in demand for virgin polymers. Meanwhile, the chemical processes that convert plastic waste into feedstocks – either monomers (in the case of PET and PS/EPS) or hydrocarbon feedstocks (in the case of pyrolysis or gasification-based technologies) reduce the need for fossil materials in the production of virgin plastics.

Focusing on plastic waste recycling has the added benefit of reducing dependence on fossil fuel-based raw materials for plastics. Even with aggressive consumption restrictions on non-discretionary single-use products, the world will continue to demand increasing volumes of plastics. Plastic waste, if collected and properly treated, can serve as a gateway to the global elimination of our society’s dependence on fossil fuels. The technology exists and is being rapidly implemented to go beyond energy harvesting by converting waste plastics into high-value virgin plastics without using fossil feedstocks. In addition, biomaterials and raw materials of biological origin offer the possibility of decoupling the demand for plastics from raw materials of fossil origin.

In addition to concerted efforts to scale plastic waste collection and recycling infrastructure, governments, brand owners and other stakeholder groups are promoting different ways to reduce plastics consumption. Governments around the world are increasingly putting in place bans on a range of discretionary single-use applications and taxing virgin plastics (as opposed to recycled plastics). Growth of returnable business models continues in developed regions for business-to-business transport packaging and is being evaluated for consumer packaging. Producers are capitalizing on the negative perception of plastics, paper, glass and metal, and promoting alternatives to brand owners, often with negative cost and emissions implications. How effective are all these efforts in the fight against plastic waste? Will we see a spike in demand for plastics as a result?

IHS Markit has incorporated scenario-based modeling to assess the above factors and their expected and potential magnitude and timing. Our base case assumes that the circular plastics transition is accelerating, with critical shifts in social, political and market forces driving fundamental change. However, the transition takes place in different ways and at different speeds depending on the country or region considered. Our second scenario assumes a more revolutionary effort, with the industry moving aggressively in line with broader energy transition goals, but failing to achieve a full circular model for plastics by 2050. Finally, IHS Markit modeled a fully successful circular plastics scenario. in which unsustainable plastics will no longer be lost to the environment, landfilled or incinerated by 2050.


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