The market share of recycled plastics is still small in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and has focused mainly on producing lower-quality recycled polymers to keep prices down. Recently, however, the market has been starting to move towards the production of high-quality recycled resins for food-grade and medical applications.
Saudi Arabia accounts for over 67% of GCC plastic resin production and for 61% of its polymer consumption, with industrial packaging being the country’s fastest-growing end-use market. Currently, this segment accounts for 26% of regional consumption. Meanwhile, the main polymers used by the construction sector are PVC, EPS and PU across several key applications including insulation, piping, windows and doors.
During the period from 2022 to 2027, the plastic and packaging market in the UAE is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5%. The country is witnessing significant manufacturing developments for plastic materials such as PVC. The oil and gas market is expected to register a CAGR of more than 2% during the 2022-2027 forecast period.
The UAE’s plastics recycling market amounted to 0.84 million tonnes in 2020 and is forecast to reach 1.44 million tonnes by 2030, growing at a healthy CAGR of 5.34%. Currently, only 5-7% of plastics are recycled in the region; the vast majority - around 90% - is sent to landfill while the small remaining amount is exported, according to the Gulf Petrochemicals & Chemicals Association.
In the first major development of its type in the Middle East and North Africa region, Saudi Arabia has successfully converted oil derived from plastic waste into certified circular polymers. The plastic waste-derived oil, also referred to as plastic pyrolysis oil, was processed at the Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical refinery, jointly with France’s TotalEnergies whose target is to produce 30% of circular polymers by 2030.
Meanwhile, the UAE-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is expected to reduce import tariffs on most goods traded between the two countries, including polymers. Indonesia’s imports of UAE-origin polymer supplies are currently subject to a 10% tariff but this could be gradually reduced over time once the trade pact is implemented.