Since 2019, India, including the entire world, is going through an unprecedented situation due to the COVID-19. It has not only claimed lives but also challenged and paralyzed socio-economic infrastructure. During this pandemic situation, many industries have suffered severe financial crises but the Polymer industry has risen high up in the commercial field. Though we voice for banning plastic to protect the environment, this pandemic stricken world is flooded with plastic materials. The plastic Industry is playing a crucial role in an hour of need, as its products are supporting the efforts of front line warriors. The plastic industry is making a significant contribution to the economic development and growth of various key sectors in the country such as Automotive, Construction, Electronics, Healthcare and Textiles etc.
What is the Polymer industry?
The polymer industry manufactures and researches natural and synthetic polymers such as plastics, elastomers and some adhesives.
Polymers are used in the manufacture of different plastic products and this sector has registered a growth rate of 18% in the recent past. Some of the by-products of the polymer industry include HDPE, LLDPE/LDPE, Polypropylene, PVC and Polystyrene
According to a recent report, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 89 million medical masks, 76 million examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles will be needed for Covid-19 response every month while the pandemic lasts. So, this indicates the need for the industry to rise to the challenge to ensure coronavirus free India.
Benefits of polymers:
- Polymer industry produces several benefits and they are used for different purposes as compared to the products of the other industries like wood, steel, paper, aluminium, etc.
- Polymer products conserve valuable natural resources and they are lighter, cheaper, and more versatile as compared to other traditional materials.
- Polymer products are widely used in packaging for extruded pipes, furniture, home appliances, moulded industrial appliances and preservation of food products.
The top five Polymer manufacturing companies of India are Finolex Industries Limited, GAIL India Limited, HaldiaPetrochemicals Limited,
Reliance Industries Limited, LG Polymers India Private Limited.
Research highlights the fact that the Indian plastics market comprises around 25,000 companies and employs 3 million people. The domestic capacity for polymer production was 5.72m tonnes in 2009. The State of Gujarat in Western India is the leading hub of manufacturing of polymers and accounts for the largest number of plastics manufacturers, with over 5,000 plastics firms.
The growth rate of the Indian polymers manufacturing industry is one of the highest in the world, with plastics consumption growing at 16% per annum (compared to 10% p.a. in China and around 2.5% p.a. in the UK). The Plastindia Foundation estimates that plastic consumption is likely to reach 16kg per head by 2015.
The fields where plastic materials are inevitable are
- Medical and pharmaceutical use
In the pharmaceutical and medical fields plastic is an indispensable material. Plastic has revolutionized the medical industry. The list is endless where plastic is used. Disposable medical devices, including flexible fluid bags, tubing, oxygen, masks, surgical gloves, etc. use approximately Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in 40%. Polycarbonate (PC) is the material that is used in medical devices and equipment, items such as blood oxygenators, hemodialyzers, intravenous connectors, and high-pressure syringes. Polystyrene (PS) is used for making tissue culture trays, test tubes, Petri dishes, diagnostic components, and housings for tests.
Its importance has grown manifold during the Covid-19 pandemic due to demand for hazmat suits, visors, goggles, shoe covers, Ventilators, masks, and personal protective equipment (PPE). They all are made of Polypropylene/plastics.
- Consumer packaging field
This field shows high demand for plastic. Lockdown and unprecedented pandemic situations have made people panic-stricken. People want to purchase and stockpile foods, grocery items, beverages and home-care products. Customers rely heavily upon plastic packaging to keep things intact.
- Home delivery business
Home delivery of food through Swiggy and Zomato during the lockdown period has increased the demand for packaging. The restaurants are closed, but to taste the delicious cuisine customers are ordering for home delivery. To deliver food intact good quality plastic packing is required.
- House-hold items
During this pandemic situation shortage of domestic help has forced people to be more independent than before. Household items like plastic containers, brooms, buckets, mops, easy to clean and maintain plastic gadgets have accelerated the demand of Polymer industries.
India, like the entire world, has witnessed a high tide in the field of E-commerce which supplies products through shipping where plastic packaging is a necessity. Biodegradable, eco-friendly plastic materials are manufactured by Polymer industries in India with a vision to protect the environment as well as to flatten the curb of the most contagious disease like COVID-19. Though the biodegradable plastic industry is at a nascent stage in India, increasing demand for plastic materials from the Polymer industry will bring a new dawn in near future.