2021 showed a slow recovery from COVID-19 crisis as the normal operations of most glass sectors were disrupted since 2020. The market suffered from the pandemic at different levels according to each glass subsector 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 39.12 million tonnes, an increase of 6.1% compared with 2020, which indicates that the market has partly recovered from the drop of 8.1% in 2020 compared with 2019.

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 Italy, France, Spain, UK and Poland.

Production Evolution until 2021


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

Compared with 2020, 2021 extra EU-27 exports increased by 16.4% in volume at 4.45million tonnesand by 11.7% in value with 8.13 bn Euros. The EU-27’s four major clients in volume are the rest of Europe (62%), including UK (23%), Switzerland (12%), Turkey (7%), Serbia (3.9%) and Russia (3%), followed by the USA (9.4%), North Africa (7.5%) and Far East Asia (5.7%) including China (2.3%). 

As for extra-EU27, imports in 2021 also increased compared with 2020, by 20.7% in volume (5.5 million tonnes) and by nearly 32% in value (7.96 bn euros). Far-East Asia accounted for 31.2% (including 24.5% from China alone), the rest of Europe for 57% (including UK (14.75%), Turkey (10.8%), Russia (9.5%), Switzerland (6.9%) & Ukraine (7.3%)), North Africa for 4.8%, United Arabic Emirates (1.5%) and the USA for 1.7%.

EU Glass Trade Evolution in 2021


Employment 2021

The number of employees stabilized since 2013. Currently, the EU-27 glass industry employs about 181,000 people (incl. processors), showing a small decrease by 2.7% compared to 2019 pre-covid period with 186,000 people.

 Employment Evolution and Productivity


Production by Sectors:   1) History      2) Details 2021 

With tough market conditions, a still difficult global sanitary situation and the new conflict between Russia and Ukraine, competition remains intense with non-European glass manufacturers and consumer confidence to invest in glass is difficult to restore when energy costs are rocketing so high.

For 2022, next to the high influence of worldwide context and the Ukrainian conflict in Europe, the recovery of the economy will remain very dependent from the implementation of the national recovery plans and of the EU state aid programmes to support the industry and promote a new industrial climate-friendly era.



Behind these 2021 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 reasonable exports. Investment outside the European borders has materialised and imports are gradually and insidiously increasing, taking bigger EU market shares in all glass sectors.