As the global burden of chronic kidney disease continues to increase, so does the need for a cost-effective renal replacement therapy. In many countries, patient outcomes with peritoneal dialysis are comparable to or better than those with haemodialysis, and peritoneal dialysis is also more cost-effective. These benefits have not, however, always led to increased utilization of peritoneal dialysis. Use of this therapy is increasing in some countries, including China, the USA and Thailand, but has proportionally decreased in parts of Europe and in Japan. The variable trends in peritoneal dialysis use reflect the multiple challenges in prescribing this therapy to patients. Key strategies for facilitating peritoneal dialysis utilization include implementation of policies and incentives that favour this modality, enabling the appropriate production and supply of peritoneal dialysis fluid at a low cost, and appropriate training for nephrologists to enable increased utilization of the therapy and to ensure that rates of technique failure continue to decline. Further growth in peritoneal dialysis use is required to enable this modality to become an integral part of renal replacement therapy programmes worldwide.