Current profile and future trends for the Australian chemicals and plastics industries
The Chemicals and Plastics industries are vital to the country’s economic, social and environmental well-being. This includes Australia’s adaptive and innovation capacity to deal with issues such as climate change, population growth, food security and energy and resource depletion.
CSIRO has partnered with the PACIA and DIISRTE to conduct a study to look at the major trends likely to shape the plastics and chemicals industry and the policy responses required to meet those challenges.
’Elements in Everything: Current profile and future trends for the Australian chemicals and plastics industries’ is the first part of PACIA’s Strategic Industry Roadmap, which will set out actions required for Australian Chemicals and Plastics industries to continue to contribute to a thriving Australian economy.
The megatrends identified in the report are:
Rapid income growth and technological advancement in Asia, and the developing world, will open up new markets for Australian chemicals and plastics products. It will also introduce new and tougher competition for the Australian industry in both domestic and global markets. Over the past ten years Asian countries such as India, China, Singapore and Korea have been ramping up exports much more rapidly than Australia.
Energy, mineral and water resources are essential feedstocks for the chemicals and plastics industry. These resources have limited supply in the natural world. However, domestic and global demand is growing. The past decades have seen prices rise and become volatile. This has supply-side implications. There is also an opportunity. Chemicals and plastics products may be highly valuable in a resource constrained world as substitutes for scarce mineral resources in construction, energy storage and generation systems and recycling.
Food for all
Global population growth and economic growth will fuel increased demand for food in coming decades. Food prices are high and most forecasts suggest they will remain high, or increase even further, in the coming decades. The quantity of food traded across borders is also rising sharply. The interaction between demand and supply factors in the food sector may create opportunities for the chemicals and plastics industry in terms of packaging, fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and food additives.
Coming decades will see an increased emphasis on environmentally and socially responsible industry performance by companies, governments, communities and consumers. Environmental and social credentials will be an increasingly important differentiator for consumer products and major corporate or government contracts. The social licence to operate will obtain elevated importance. Recycling and waste management will also gain greater attention.
Health and wellbeing
Due to the ageing population, rise of chronic and lifestyle related illness and changing consumer preferences healthcare expenditure is set to rise. This creates a demand side opportunity for the chemicals and plastics industry to supply products and inputs to the pharmaceutical sector, hospitals and other parts of the healthcare industry.
There is a rapid pace of technological development in the chemicals and plastics industry. Future technological advances have the capability to substantially alter production processes, supply chains and the competitiveness of companies, industry sub-sectors and the whole industry.
’Elements in Everything: Current profile and future trends for the Australian chemicals and plastics industries’ was launched by PACIA President Ross McCann at the PACIA Interface Meeting 2013, at Parliament House in Canberra.