Made from monomer styrene, polystyrene (PS) is a polymer that is a liquid hydrocarbon commercially manufactured from petroleum. PS is typically a solid thermoplastic at room temperature but can be melted at a higher temperature for extrusion or molding, then solidified. Refrigerators, air conditioners, ovens, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, blenders – these and other appliances often are made with polystyrene (solid and foam) because it is inert (don't react with other materials), cost-effective and long-lasting.
The growth of the polystyrene industry can be attributed to the increasing rates of industrialization and globalization throughout the world. Additionally, the rising demand for lightweight, eco-friendly, sustainable, and durable goods and components, due to their thermal and acoustic insulation, in the construction, automotive, and packaging sectors are also contributing factors in driving the market growth.
According to a recent study by the market research and strategic consulting firm; BlueWeave Consulting revealed that the global polystyrene market was worth USD 31.6 billion in 2021. Moreover, the polystyrene industry is projected to reach USD 44.8 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 5.2% between 2022 and 2028. This can be attributed to the wide range of lucrative benefits of polystyrenes, like impact resistance, high heat, good electrical insulation, excellent optical clarity, strong chemical resistance, and flame retardation. This makes it a preferred choice among various end-use industries like packaging, automotive, construction, and electronics, among others.
Polystyrene has many disadvantages, including brittle and poor chemical resistance, especially to organics. It is susceptible to UV degradation and is flammable.
Polystyrene is a kind of plastic. Like any other plastic, when polystyrene leaks out or is littered, it can harm wildlife and last for years and years. Made from chemicals that come from oil and gas, polystyrene is a suspected health hazard.
The major regional polystyrene industry is in the Asia-Pacific region. The Asia-Pacific region contributes significantly to the total trade market of the material currently. While the import and export of general-purpose polystyrene (GPPS) and high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) are balanced in the region, the Asia-Pacific is a net exporter of expanded polystyrene (EPS) resin. The global production capacity for polystyrene is estimated to be about 14 million metric tons, especially high-impact polystyrene and general-purpose polystyrene, with Asia accounting for about half of the total capacity. The worldwide production capacity for expanded polystyrene (EPS) is predicted to be around 12 million metric tons, with the Asia-Pacific accounting for about three-fourths of the total global capacity. Consumers in North America are expected to look to the Asia-Pacific region to cater to their future requirements. China is one of the biggest importers of GPPS and HIPS because of their increasing application in the consumer electronics industry.
The polystyrene industry is supported by the huge demand from the Asian market, which is expected to grow more in the forthcoming years. Mature markets, like North America and Europe, are anticipated to grow slower than Asia. The US is one of the net importers of general-purpose polystyrene (GPPS), high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), and expanded polystyrene (EPS). With the rising demand for polystyrene, Europe might depend on imports from regions like India and Korea. Turkey is the largest export market in Europe, accounting for nearly half of the total exports in Europe. The polystyrene industry has been among the fastest-growing markets due to the construction sector's high demand. The construction sector in the Asia-Pacific region is likely to develop faster than North America and Europe, thus, driving the demand for polystyrene within the industry.