Expandable polystyrene (EPS) is a thermoplastic resin that contains an expanding agent. It is used in various applications ranging from food packaging to electrical coatings and medical supplies. It is environment-friendly as it does not involve any halogen during its production process. The global expandable polystyrene market is growing at an exponential rate as it caters to the demand of various industry verticals through sustainable development.
Expandable polystyrene has an added advantage over moulded pulp. Moulded pulp, though recyclable, requires a certain amount of natural gas in the drying process, and it naturally weighs more, resulting into increased packaging and transportation cost. On the other hand, EPS meets most of the sustainable packaging criteria. It emits less greenhouse gases when compared to moulded pulp. Taking these benefits into account, governments as well as companies are shifting the packaging market towards the expandable polystyrene segment. The global expandable polystyrene market had witnessed 1.5X times growth in between 2000 and 2010.
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Building & construction, and packaging are the two important end-use segment market for expandable polystyrene. Together, they contribute 95% market share of the global expandable polystyrene market. The rise in the demand for processed foods is increasing the expandable polystyrene demands in the food & beverages industry. In terms of revenue, this industry accounts for the largest market share in the global expandable polystyrene market. The next potential segment is building & construction. With major market economies such as China, India and GCC witnessing a major surge in infrastructure investment, the expandable polystyrene market is set to grow at an accelerated pace. Expandable polystyrene has been the prime choice for the construction of green buildings. It enhances the durability of buildings, and finds its application in insulating closed cavity walls and floor insulation. These major economies will see a surge in infrastructure investment in the coming decades. It is because of this added advantage that market is set to proliferate at an exponential rate. Another profitable segment is the electronics domain. Capacitors and electronic components are the main portions of electronics application segment that will push the expandable polystyrene market vertically upward at a CAGR of 4.5% between 2014 and 2020. Refrigerators, microwaves, electrical coatings are the major application for EPS in the electronics segment.
Geographically, the APAC market stands to be the global leader in production and consumption in the EPS market. Almost half of the total global production happens in the APAC region, and 45% of it is consumed in global emerging economies such as India and China. In the APAC region, China will be the most preferred destination primarily due to the rising demand of packaging in the food & beverages, and electronics industry. China and India are the global leaders in maritime trade. This will boost the packaging industry. China alone accounts for 37% of the global EPS market in terms of volume. As China has a strong hold in the electronics segment and is a major exporter of electronic devices, the EPS market is set to flourish in China. India, along with Malaysia and Philippines, will be the next major market for EPS primarily due to heavy infrastructure investment across various industry verticals. Europe followed by Latin America and North America are the other potential markets for EPS. North America has reached its saturation point in global EPS market and therefore its market growth will be stagnant in coming few years. While Europe will witness a surge in the market due to the rising demand of pharmaceutical industries, Latin America will be a preferred destination mainly due to infrastructure investment.
BASF SE, Nova Chemicals Corporation, Synthos S.A, Owens Corning, and INEOS Styrenics are some of the leading manufacturers of EPS.
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The global EPS market is set to grow at a moderate CAGR in the coming years. China, Europe, Brazil and India will be the major preferred destinations for the EPS market. Low weight, durability, moisture resistance, thermal efficiency, shock absorption, versatility and ease of use are some characteristics of EPS which are tempting various industry verticals to shift base to EPS. Though the EPS market is promising, major restraining factors are the availability of high performance substitutes including polypropylene and polyethylene.