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  5. Future demand for plastics

Will demand for plastics continue to grow?

The strong link between economic development and the use of plastics means the use of oil as a feedstock for plastics continues to grow over the next decade in all three of the Energy Outlook scenarios. However, growth is slower than in the past as environmental pressures on the use of plastics increase.

Oil for plastic peaks

  • In Rapid, tightening policy measures limit the use of virgin plastics. Measures such as taxation, requirements for recycled content, and increasing constraints on the use of single-use plastics lead to further increases in recycling rates, including the use of chemical recycling, and more initiatives to reduce and reuse plastic products. As a result, demand for oil as a feedstock for the production of plastics and fibres peaks around 2040 and is 3 Mb/d lower than in Business-as-usual in 2050
  • In Net Zero, as well as the measures carried out in Rapid, additional action is taken on the demand side, with the use of most single-use plastics phased out by 2050. In this scenario, demand for oil-based plastics peaks around 2030 and by 2050 is roughly 2 Mb/d lower than 2018 levels. 

Oil feedstock for plastics and fibres

Non-combusted use of fuels remains most resilient

  • Despite the declining use of oil for plastics in Rapid and Net Zero, the share of ‘non-combusted’ fuels in oil demand rises, reflecting the rapid declines in use of oil in other sectors, especially in transport.
  • In Net Zero, the use of oil as a feedstock becomes the largest share of oil demand by 2050, making up half of total oil consumption compared with less than 20% in 2018.

Share of oil demand by sector

Want to know more?

Take a look at the Net Zero section in the Energy Outlook.

Go to the following Energy Outlook sections: Non-combusted use of fuels and Oil consumption


The Charting the Energy Transition series is based on the data and scenarios described in the 2020 edition of bp’s Energy Outlook.  The Energy Outlook considers a range of possible pathways the energy transition may take over the next 30 years, ‎although the uncertainty is substantial.  In particular, the scenarios do not provide a comprehensive ‎description of all possible outcomes and they are not predictions of what is likely to happen or what bp would like to happen

Energy Outlook 2020

Explore the report, download the data or watch the replay of Spencer Dale's 2020 presentation