The global expanded polystyrene market size was valued at USD 18.5 billion in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 28.4 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 4.9% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is a hard, closed-cell, thermoplastic foam material manufactured from solid beads of polystyrene, which is polymerized from styrene monomer and comprises an expansion gas (pentane) dissolved within the polystyrene bead. Little amounts of gas are present in each solid polystyrene bead, and when heat (in the form of steam) is applied, the gas expands, creating closed EPS cells. With a second heat treatment and a mold, massive EPS blocks can be molded into exact custom shapes since the expanded cells occupy around 40 times the volume of the initial polystyrene bead.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) has a closed-cell structure that offers several advantages for insulation. The material provides various properties, such as resistance to humidity, shock absorption, resistance to compression, retention of vitamin C, hygienic properties, and chemical resistance. It has applications in the packaging, automotive, furnishing, and construction industries. The material is used for packaging in food and beverage and electronic markets.
EPS is utilized in many kinds of construction, including immense structures like roads, bridges, railway lines, public buildings, and even modest single-family homes. The qualities of EPS make it perfect for use as insulation, a lightweight filler, and as a decorative or inventive touch. Moreover, EPS is utilized as a lightweight filler in the construction of highways. It is appropriate for use in the building industry because of the perfect fusion of mechanical and physical qualities.
EPS provides developers and architects excellent thermal performance and compressive strength while offering longevity and sustainable green credentials. These uses of EPS in the building and construction industry act as driving factors. Additionally, EPS is the perfect packaging material. Lightweight and non-abrasive, EPS is water resistant and has excellent cushioning ability. Moreover, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are pollutants free, and EPS has the compressive strength and thermal properties to protect sensitive components and breakables. Such applications also drive the EPS market in the packaging industry.
The automotive/transportation end-use industry is one of the major consumers of plastic materials that almost make up 50% volume of modern automobiles, and polymer products account only for around 10% of the overall weight of the automobile. Using plastics in automobiles to improve vehicle downsizing is an efficient, cost-effective way to boost the vehicle's mileage. In addition, lightweight plastic materials play a crucial role by helping vehicle manufacturers meet the regulatory standards of vehicles.
Similarly, plastic majorly finds its applications in transportation, owing to its different advantages. The need for these items to improve vehicle fuel efficiency has significantly increased. The demand for expanded polystyrene is expected to increase considerably as the automotive end-use industry relies on solid and foam polystyrene to make many car parts, including knobs, instrument panels, energy-absorbing door panels, trim, and sound-dampening foam.
Expandable polystyrene, a stiff cellular plastic containing an expansion agent, is the raw material used to create expanded polystyrene. Crude oil is used to make EPS. As a result, changes in crude oil prices directly influence the cost of raw materials, affecting the manufacturing process. Therefore, volatility in crude oil prices hinders the growth of the expandable polystyrene market.
Injection-molded polystyrene is used to produce parts for different applications owing to its faster production, design, material flexibility, and high-volume production. With the technological advancement in injection molding, the efficiency of the manufacturing process of polystyrene is expected to increase. It also makes it labor-intensive. Furthermore, combining computer-aided engineering (CAE) and automation in the injection molding process improve manufacturing efficiency with increased precision.
Additionally, the involvement of robots is widespread in injection molding industries, owing to their long service life and a high degree of flexibility. They are time-efficient, cost-effective, and designed to perform several operations, such as finishing and assembling injection molded parts and loading components into the injection molding machine. As more and more automation comes into the picture, the production of expanded polystyrene is expected to increase significantly, thereby providing future growth opportunities to the market.
The global expanded polystyrene market is segmented by type and end-user industry.
Based on type, the global expanded polystyrene market is bifurcated into white, grey, and black.
The white segment is the highest contributor to the market and is projected to exhibit a CAGR of 4.6% over the forecast period. White EPS is a rigid, closed-cell foam plastic with high thermal insulation. It reflects the sun better than other EPS; therefore, its surface does not get that "greasy" in the sun's heat. This means ripping the white EPS is often unnecessary, saving several hours of work for an average installation. White EPS offers cost savings making it preferable for installation. The thermal resistance of the white matter depends on the density. In addition, the white matter has a closed cellular structure containing merely stabilized air. The thermal resistance of the white matter does not decrease with time. Furthermore, the rise in the use of white EPS in the construction and packaging market drives the market growth. The cost-benefit over the grey and black EPS also fuels the white EPS market growth.
EPS has robust sustainability, functionality, and performance, particularly for hot food packaging. They offer a suitable environment for packaged food without interfering with it. Therefore, increased demand from the food and beverages and packaging industries is expected to drive the black EPS market growth. In addition, using these foams in the seats and furniture also fuels the market growth. The demand for expanded black polystyrene is expected to increase significantly due to the need for furniture. Rapid urbanization and increased demand for modular and compact furniture are expected to impact the expanded black polystyrene market's growth positively.
Based on the end-user industry, the global expanded polystyrene market is segmented into packaging, building and construction, domestic appliances, consumer electronics, medical, and others.
The packaging segment owns the highest market share and is estimated to exhibit a CAGR of 5.2% during the forecast period. Expanded polystyrene is the perfect packaging material because it is lightweight, water-resistant, non-abrasive, and has excellent cushioning properties. It is CFC and HCFC-free and can be manufactured in various densities. It can be cut into different shapes and sizes without the high cost and long lead times of die-cut or custom-molded parts. In addition, EPS is entirely recyclable. EPS can be manufactured in various densities to meet several specifications and is cost-efficient. Recyclable EPS, with its excellent cushioning, resilience, and high insulation value, is the optimal material for insulated packages. Packaging materials made from EPS are corners, flat pads, edge protectors, custom cut pads, end caps, door cores, specialty items, wall panels, roof panels, concrete void fillers, and specialty panels. Therefore, wide applications of EPS in the packaging industry are anticipated to drive market growth.
EPS is used for its many properties, such as stability, lightweight, lower cost, versatility, and insulating properties. Expanded polystyrene insulation boxes are used for the transport of organs, blood, medication, and specimens. Because of its numerous properties, polystyrene provides benefits on many levels. EPS material is inorganic and rot-proof, resisting water and moisture and not stimulating mold growth. Expanded polystyrene ensures the reliability of its contents, prevents contamination, and facilitates storing health and survival-related medical items, which is estimated to propel market expansion in the medical industry.
The healthcare sector is one of the most advanced and rapidly expanding industries globally. Moreover, the population is projected to increase notably in the future. Due to the growing population, more healthcare services and service providers are anticipated to be needed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare insurance sector employs more than 14.3 million people. In the coming years, 3.2 million new jobs relating to medical services are projected to be created. With the increase in healthcare demand, the requirement for expanded polystyrene in medical boxes is also expected to increase significantly.
Based on region, the global expanded polystyrene market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and LAMEA.
Asia-Pacific is the most significant global expanded polystyrene market shareholder and is anticipated to exhibit a CAGR of 5.4% during the forecast period. Asia-Pacific has emerged as the primary region and EPS producer due to growing consumer interest. Due to numerous ongoing and planned building structures and construction projects, EPS interest in the Asia-Pacific is anticipated to rise over the following years. The region’s leading market participants are Wuxi Xingda, Synthos, BASF, The Ravago Group, and Alpek. The market is anticipated to expand due to increasing EPS interest in cold chain packaging in the pharmaceutical sector to enhance product safety and maintain the freshness of packaged food during transit. In addition, due to increased real estate ownership and home construction and refurbishment, EPS insulation demand is rising in Asia-Pacific. Moreover, the Chinese government has developed policies promoting building energy efficiency.
Furthermore, government initiatives to increase construction expenditure to improve public and commercial infrastructure and energy conservation initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions augment the market growth. The market is further driven by population and economic growth, increased building floor space, and growth in service demands. Similarly, rapid industrialization and improved living standards in developing countries in this region are expected to present substantial growth opportunities to the existing and new market players shortly.
Europe is estimated to exhibit a CAGR of 5.1% over the forecast period. The European expanded polystyrene market is one of the matured markets in the world. Rapid demand for insulation materials for renovating and remodeling already built structures fuels the growth of the expanded polystyrene market. Polystyrene foams are considered an affordable, durable, and safe way of reducing carbon emissions, which cause global warming. Although the market for expanded polystyrene has matured in Europe, the need for energy conservation is still estimated to drive market growth during the forecast period. By evaluating EPS, European expanded polystyrene producers have increased the competition in the market for EPS. In addition, the expansion of fire retardants, graphite, and other added substances has presented the new evolution of modified EPS. Grey EPS is one such development wherein the growth of graphite has expanded its refractive and reflective properties to offer better thermal insulation. It possesses remarkable properties such as excellent mechanical properties, high water resistance, and increased fire resistance. Therefore, it protects outer dividers, rooftop frameworks, floors, thermo-acoustic protection, and lightweight structure squares.
Furthermore, the region has the presence of large automotive and chemical manufacturers. The automotive industries are utilizing expanded polystyrene to produce car parts, such as knobs, instrument panels, energy-absorbing door panels, and sound-dampening foam. Similarly, the chemical industry is manufacturing expanded polystyrene with the help of injection molding. Therefore, the factors mentioned above drive market growth.
The North American region has a significant packaging, building and construction, electronics, and medical market presence. As a result, the use of expandable polystyrene in those industries is expected to increase. For instance, the food and beverage industry utilizes expanded polystyrene for packaging, and the construction industry uses it for the structural integrity of many buildings. The expanded polystyrene market is anticipated to increase due to these reasons. The surge in demand for insulation materials from residential and non-residential construction activities and automotive and oil and gas industries; and awareness about the concept of green buildings in the U.S. drives the growth of the expanded polystyrene market in this region. In addition, expanded polystyrene insulates (cavity) walls, roofs, and concrete floors.
The U.S. Green Building Council also estimates that heating, cooling, and lighting buildings use energy the most. Insulation is a vital part of the green building structure as it results in energy conservation. Insulating roofs, wall façades, floors, and doors could save up to 25% of this energy. Hence, there is a growth in demand for expanded polystyrene in green building applications. In addition, commercial building owners and managers have announced an investment of approximately USD 960 billion by 2023 to support green building infrastructure, which is expected to possess growth opportunities in the North American region.
In LAMEA, insulation material and energy efficiency are gaining traction in numerous countries worldwide, owing to funding programs and several state regulations. Reduce, reuse, and recycle are the three solid environmental principles. EPS insulating material can reduce energy loss in buildings and lower the energy required to maintain a comfortable living environment. Furthermore, the presence of significant oil corporations in the region signifies the production of EPS. Moreover, the rise in the construction and packaging industry in the region drives market growth. Using EPS in packaging to transit several products, such as electronic devices and domestic appliances, also drives the expandable polystyrene market growth.
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