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US demand for plastic film is expected to rise 1.3% yearly to 18.7 billion pounds, valued at $32.5 billion, in 2026. Gains will be driven by:
- continued recovery in manufacturing activity following declines in 2019 and 2020, the latter due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- ongoing gains in e-commerce, which are boosting sales of flexible packaging, tapes, and labels that use plastic film, as well as stretch and shrink film used for pallet unitization
- continuing replacement of rigid packaging with flexible varieties, which offer source reduction, lightweighting properties, and lower shipping costs
- development of novel plastic film formulations that have better barrier properties and durability, or are more easily recycled
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This report includes data from 2011-2031 in 5 year intervals and tables featuring year-by-year data for 2018-2025.
E-Commerce Boost Demand for Plastic Film in Secondary/Tertiary Packaging, Tapes, & Labels
Secondary and tertiary packaging is expected to account for the largest absolute gains of any plastic film market, boosted by the continued expansion of e-commerce as a retail channel. Secondary and tertiary packaging applications such as stretch and shrink film are essential to the fulfillment of online orders via their use in pallet unitization, where plastic film offers convenience and a level of package protection at a lower cost than some materials.
Rapidly rising e-commerce sales will also support demand for tapes and labels, most notably pressure sensitive labels, which are used extensively for shipping, warehousing, and returns for online retailers.
Sustainability Concerns Will Support the Rapid Growth of Biobased Plastic Films
Sustainability concerns have impacted the plastic film market in the US, with governmental regulations and consumer sentiment prompting a shift away from some single-use plastic products and increasing the interest in environmentally friendly packaging. Biobased plastic film will benefit from these trends, growing at a rapid rate going forward. Although it will continue to account for a small portion of plastic film demand, biobased resin will increase its share of the market, bolstered by lower prices, improved formulations, and state and local government bans and restrictions on single-use plastic bags, of which types that employ biobased resins are typically exempt.
This study analyzes the United States market for plastic film, including converted and unconverted plastic film used in the following key applications:
Monolayer, multilayer, oriented, coextruded, and metallized films are all included, as are biaxially-oriented and oriented grades of all types of film. For multilayer/coextruded/biaxially-oriented and oriented films, the different resin components are accounted for separately under the specific resin type.
Plastic film can be produced from a variety of resins, including:
- food primary packaging, used for:
- meat, poultry, and seafood
- baked goods
- snack food
- dairy products
- candy and confections
- frozen food
- grain mill products
- other foods (e.g., sauces and condiments, coffee and tea, spices, wet soups and other prepared and ready-to-eat foods, baby food, energy bars, dry foods such as pasta and dry soup mixes)
- nonfood primary packaging, used for:
- paper and textile products
- rack and counter goods
- medical products (e.g., surgical, diagnostic, and acute- and long-term devices and instruments)
- pet foods
- agricultural and horticultural products
- other nonfood items (e.g., books, building materials, electrical and electronic components, fabricated plastic and rubber products, furniture, leather goods, military supplies, motor oil, personal care products, pet products, tobacco products, medical supplies for purchase at retail settings by consumers)
- secondary and tertiary packaging:
- stretch film (including stretch film, stretch hoods, and stretch sleeve labels)
- retail bags
- shrink film (including shrink wrap, shrink labels, shrink bags, shrink hoods, and window insulation)
- industrial liners
- other secondary packaging (e.g., garment bags, desiccants, envelope and mailer films, produce bags in grocery stores)
- trash/garbage bags and can liners
- tapes and labels
- hygiene products and nonwovens (e.g., diapers; adult incontinence products; feminine hygiene products; and medical nonwovens including surgical gowns, surgical drapes, and bed coverings)
- household food wrap and bags
- agricultural film
- construction and industrial film
- other nonpackaging films (e.g., electrical insulators, automotive safety and security films, photovoltaic films, and pressure sensitive film substrates sold in graphic and technical markets)
- linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE)
- low density polyethylene (LDPE)
- high density polyethylene (HDPE)
- polypropylene (PP)
- polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
- polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
- other resins (e.g., nylon, polystyrene, polyvinylidene chloride, biobased resins, ethylene vinyl alcohol, acrylic, fluoropolymers, acrylonitrile, cyclic-olefin copolymers, polyvinyl alcohol)
Historical Market Patterns
Demand for plastic film generally parallels the performance of the overall economy, especially manufacturing activity:
As a result, growth does not always reflect gains in overall economic indicators, and the effect of cyclical economic downturns is somewhat ameliorated.
Other factors that impact demand for plastic film on a year-by-year basis include:
- Plastic film is largely used for product packaging, secondary and tertiary packaging (such as retail bags), and industrial and construction applications, so film demand is strongly influenced by trends in retail sales, building construction, and manufacturing.
- However, a significant portion of plastic film is used in applications that are less influenced by the strength of the economy – food packaging, trash bags, and personal care products such as diapers – so the market for plastic films is generally less volatile than some others.
Trends in market value are determined primarily by annual changes in pricing and shifts in the product mix; the latter applies largely to the resins used and their performance or value-added features (such as barrier layers or anti-fog coatings). Pricing is a critical competitive factor in the plastic film industry due to intense industry competition, the availability of substitute products, and the undifferentiated nature of many types of bulk packaging. A range of factors impact prices for plastic film, including:
- consumer sentiments surrounding the sustainability of plastic products, especially single-use items like plastic film and packaging
- single-use plastics bans and recycling/reuse goals implemented by manufacturers, governments, and environmental agencies
- competition from alternative packaging materials such as paper and rigid plastic products
- development of new technologies such as higher performance barrier films that require the use of fewer layers
- raw material and labor costs
- energy and transportation expenses
- material supply levels (product availability)
- manufacturing capacity levels
- international trade activity
- the availability of alternative shipping products, including other types of packaging, as well as tanker trucks and other containers
- industry competitiveness within specific applications