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Key Facts & Trends in the U.S. Plastics and Rubber Industry

Posted by IndustrySelect on Tuesday, August 22, 2023



The U.S. plastics and manufacturing sector is a dynamic and growing industry, demonstrating strong exports and employment growth in recent years. A large and complex industry that encompasses everything from mechanical rubber goods and gaskets to plastic film and foam products, having a deep understanding of this market can help industrial sales and marketing professionals navigate the industry. This article will break down the key elements of the rubber and plastics sector in the U.S, including major subsectors, and will examine the latest trends, statistics, and challenges in the industry.

Reach 13,000+ companies and 36,000+ executives in the U.S. rubber & plastics manufacturing sector with MNI's Rubber & Miscellaneous Plastic Products Industrial Database.

Key Facts and Statistics in the U.S. Rubber and Plastics Industry

Based on exclusive data collected by MNI, compiler and publisher of the industrial data that powers IndustrySelect, the rubber and plastics sector encompasses 13,675 companies with reported average total sales of $553 billion. Jobs in the industry increased by 1.35% from 846,729 to 858,177 over the past year. These numbers point to a promising market. The percentages of women and minority-owned companies are on par with manufacturing, at 2% and 1%, respectively. Public ownership of these companies stands at 9% compared to 5% for all manufacturing.

This industry segment imports more materials, 19%, than total manufacturing at 11%. The good news lies in exportation figures. Rubber and plastics showed 42% international distribution versus 29% for all manufacturing.

Most plastics and rubber manufacturers are in the Midwest, at 35%, and the South, at 31%. Many companies are strategically located to meet the automotive industry's needs. The State of Kentucky illustrates this factor. The balance of these manufacturers makes their homes in the Northeast and the West, at 17% each.

In addition to the distinction between rubber and plastics, you will find five subindustries in this sector. You may discover that some more than others provide your best prospecting targets.

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Key Facts & Trends in the U.S. Plastics & Rubber Manufacturing Industry

Plastics & Rubber Subsectors


Tire manufacturers such as Michelin, Bridgestone, and Goodyear are significant plastic and rubber players. Many companies invest in automation to reduce costs and boost quality, safety, and productivity.

Hose, Belting, Gaskets, and Packing

This subindustry includes sealing devices such as O-rings, gaskets, and cup packings. Despite disruptions due to the war in Ukraine, the global market for this subindustry is expected to grow at 9.9% annually. The demand for oil and gas propels the need for these parts and mechanisms.

Fabricated Rubber Products

These include mechanical rubber goods. This subindustry reclaims used rubber. It produces a range of sundries, rubberized fabric, and vulcanized rubber clothing. These companies hold promise if you deal in scrap rubber or products or services that market it.

Miscellaneous Plastic Products

You will find many types of goods and services under this classification. They are:

● Plastics film and sheet
● Plastics profile shapes
● Laminated
● Sheet
● Plate
● Profile Shapes
● Pipe
● Bottles
● Foam products
● Plumbing fixtures
● Products not elsewhere classified
● Custom compounding of purchased plastics resins

If you sell resins, the last category presents an opportunity. Products such as labels serve as natural partners to some of these items.

Rubber and Plastics Footwear

Due to the impressive export numbers, you will find this subindustry a surprisingly large market. Last year China bought $32.8 million worth of these products from the U.S. Canada was an even more significant importer, purchasing $54 million of this footwear. The forecast for the footwear industry shows continuing growth.

The Latest Industry Trends for Rubber and Plastics

The supply chain, particularly for plastics, has several points of potential failure. Regulations increasingly affect raw materials. Fossil fuels may compete with alternatives and recycled feedstocks. The perception that plastics contribute to waste management problems affects supply and demand. Both regulations and consumers demand more use of recycled materials. Unfortunately, less than 20% of plastic is recycled. This systemic failure creates a severe recycled material supply crunch.

Many companies are looking toward biobased feedstocks hoping they will produce biodegradable products that address environmental concerns. So far, those hopes are going largely unmet. The raw materials for industrial use are often also needed for foodstuff processing. This competition creates tension between the demands of manufacturing and food security.

Environmentalists object to waterborne plastic pollution endangering wildlife. Many consumers have concerns about the effect of microplastics on people. The industry will have to find a way to stabilize its supply chain while addressing both governmental and societal interests. Doors will swing open if you can offer a way to help.

Due to the semiconductor shortage, the automotive industry is still in recovery, which reduces its need for plastic products. On the upside, pent-up demand suggests future improvement. The switch to electric-powered cars will also be favorable for the plastics industry. Replacing metal parts with plastic ones produces lighter vehicles with greater range.

You can view the rising consumer demand for plastic or plastic-packaged products as a positive sign. Fortunately, inflation doesn't appear to discourage these purchases.

The industry is looking toward increased use of plastics reinforced with aramid fibers. Since these products can be used as asbestos substitutes, they will decrease public health threats.

If you sell radio frequency transmitters, you will be pleased to know that their use in plastic products is growing. In addition to anti-theft devices in retail stores, manufacturers embed them in hospital bands to prevent kidnapping. Engineers also use them in underground pipes to pinpoint stresses and prevent leaks.

Plastic companies are mirroring rubber companies in the introduction of automation. They will be using automated systems to:

● Trim parts.
● Insert and extract items.
● Check quality.
● Assemble parts.
● Pack finished goods.

With these continuing innovations, plastic manufacturers intend to stay competitive with overseas producers.

The effects of the pandemic added impetus to the development of antimicrobial products. These will be customized to the requirements of various healthcare services and institutions.

The pandemic also tightened the labor market, causing companies in this sector to pay a premium for qualified workers. This pain point is waning, allowing production at a lower cost.

Reach the Nation's Manufacturers with IndustrySelect

Plastics and rubber manufacturers face their share of obstacles. Still, the market continues to expand, presenting new openings to sales and marketing teams. IndustrySelect can put you in touch with the contacts you need. Are you looking to build your prospect list with contacts at fabricated metals facilities? With IndustrySelect, you can access the most up-to-date information on company locations, positions and executive emails. An IndustrySelect subscription can provide these and the services you need to ride the wave of these developing markets. To learn more about using IndustrySelect to generate the reliable, high-quality leads you need, set up your free demo account of IndustrySelect, pre-loaded with 800 free leads to get you started! 


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