The plastics industry manufactures polymer materials—commonly called plastics—and offers services in plastics important to a range of industries, including packaging, building and construction, electronics, aerospace, and transportation.

The global plastic market size was estimated at $579.7 billion in 2020, $593 billion in 2021, $609.01 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $811.57 billion by 2030. Many of the world’s largest plastic manufacturers are based in the United States, such as Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil's chemical division.

The demand for plastics has grown exponentially since it first became commercially available more than half a century ago. Since then, plastics have become massively important materials that are used in all walks of life, from electronic products, textiles, automobiles, and construction. Innovations in plastics have also revolutionized the medical sector.

China is the world's largest producer of plastics. According to Statista, China accounted for 32 percent of global plastic materials production, making it the world's largest plastic producer by far. North America was the second-largest plastics producing region, accounting for almost 20 percent of global production. The total worldwide production of plastics amounts to approximately 391 million metric tons.

Plastics are used in almost every segment of life -- from everyday life to industrial applications. On a global level, plastics have displaced many traditional materials, such as wood, stone, horn and bone, leather, paper, metal, glass, and ceramic. One of the main applications for plastics use is plastic packaging. Global plastics use is projected to continue rising over the coming decades to reach more than 1.2 billion metric tons by 2060.

The production of plastic requires four basic steps: the acquirement of raw material, synthesizing a basic polymer, compounding the polymer into a usable fraction, and lastly, molding or shaping the plastic.

Despite the recent backlash against plastics due to environmental concerns, the plastics industry continues to play an important role in the American economy. It is the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States and employs more than one million people. The highest number of employees in the U.S. plastics industry are in California, Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, with more than 70,000 people employed in each state. Additionally, U.S. plastics industry shipments generate more than $400 billion a year.