In 2020, COVID-19 has disrupted the normal operations of the glass sector, with some companies being more exposed to the effects of shut-downs than others resulting in them coming under severe financial pressure.

Overall glass production reached a volume of 35.85 million tonnes, a decrease of 2.6% compared with 2019, which indicates that the market suffered from the pandemic, at different levels according to each glass subsector. Indeed, the domestic glassware (-14%) and flat glass sectors (- 5.5%), representing the fall in melted glass production, while decrease in saleable glass figures reaches double digit figures (This difference is due to the several furnaces that remain in 'hot holds' during the pandemic: melted glass is produced but it cannot be sold), were particularly hit by the very low demand, the difficult working conditions, the decreased activities in the catering sector, construction sector, the car industry and the energy sector, while the container and special glass sectors, considered as essential to the economy (food services) and to fight against the pandemic (laboratory glassware), could maintain their production level.

The European production level still maintains the EU as one of the largest glass producers in the world with China and North America. Germany remains the EU’s biggest producer with about one fifth of the volume, closely followed by France, Spain and Italy.

Production evolution until 2020


Regarding foreign trade from third countries, imports from Asian countries, and in particular China, remain big competitors.

Compared with 2019, 2020 extra EU-27 exports decreased by 2.6% in volume at 3.82million tonnesand by 8.8% in value with 7.28 bn Euros. The EU-27’s four major clients in volume are the rest of Europe (60.97), including UK (19.4%), Switzerland (13%), Turkey (7.5%), Serbia (3.8%) and Russia (3.5%), followed by the USA (9.5%), North Africa (5%) and Far East Asia (6.7%) including China (3%). 

 As for extra-EU27, imports in 2020 also decreased compared with 2019, by 6.9% in volume (nearly 4.58 million tonnes) and by 8.4% in value (7.28 bn euros). Far-East Asia accounted for 30% (including 24.2% from China alone), the rest of Europe for 58.4% (including UK (14.5%), Turkey (12%), Russia (7.5%), Switzerland (8%) & Ukraine (8%)), North Africa for 4.8%, United Arabic Emirates (2%) and the USA for 1.9%.

External Trade Evolution


Behind these 2020 figures aggregated at the level of the whole glass industry, it is important to realize that the situations are contrasted in the different sectors. Evolutions in production and employment, as well as in the origin of imports into the EU, are very different between glass sectors. The global trend indicates however steadily increasing imports in all glass sectors with rather limited exports.

Production by Sectors:   1) History      2) Details 2020

Outlook: For 2021, next to the high influence of worldwide context, the recovery of the economy will remain very dependent from the pandemic evolution, the implementation of the national recovery plans and of the EU support to the industry, while EU stringent climate policies (Green Deal, Fit for 55 package, ETS revision, Decarbonisation, REACH, Food Contact, etc.) will further impact all EU glass sectors.

One can pre-empt an ever-challenging manufacturing climate and a slow recovery.


Employment Evolution and Productivity

The number of employees stabilized since 2013. Currently, the EU-27 glass industry employs about 186,000 people (incl. processors), showing a stable socio-economic situation.