At a press event held during K2013, European trade association, PlasticsEurope, presented its latest production, demand and waste management data. The world plastics production volume has shown increase, since at global level the production has gone from 280 Mtonnes in 2011 to 288 Mtonnes in 2012, signifying an increase of around 2.8%.
At European level however, the 2012 results do not show the same trend. The sector is still suffering from the consequences of the crisis; production (-3%) and demand (-2.5%) results show a slight decrease in 2012 compared to 2011. This is due to a decrease in the demand of the main customer industries (packaging, building and construction, automobile, etc.). There are however differences between Western and Central Europe: in Western Europe, demand declined by 3%, while in Central Europe demand increased by 0.6%.
“Confronted with a changing and often difficult economic context, the European plastics industry has shown great resilience and adaptability. Even if we would have preferred a quicker recovery, we have so far managed to dodge the threat of globalisation and remain competitive and innovative, thereby contributing by 2.6% to Europe’s GDP. However the lower prices of energy and raw materials in other regions of the world are a substantial challenge for our industry in Europe,” said Dr Wilfried Haensel, Executive Director, PlasticsEurope.
In terms of outlook, Patrick Thomas, President of PlasticsEurope and CEO of Bayer MaterialScience said that “2013 could well be viewed as a year of stabilisation in the European plastics sector and in 2014 industry predictions suggest a slight recovery; although we will still be far from pre-crisis level”.
Regarding plastic waste management data in Europe, 2012 results show a positive trend. While post-consumer plastic waste generation stood at the same level as the year before (recycling and energy recovery rates increased and reached 26.3% (+4.9%) and 35.6% (+ 3.3%) respectively. These figures have led to a total European recovery rate of an average of 61.9%, an increase of 4% compared to 2011. The situation however varies significantly among the different European countries, since some countries recover 100% of the post-consumer plastic waste they generate, while others hardly reach a 30% recovery rate. This leaves more than 9 million tonnes of plastic waste that are still landfilled.
“Despite a positive evolution of the European data for plastics recycling and energy recovery, we lament that more than a third of plastic waste still ends-up in landfill,” continued Dr Wilfried Haensel. He added: “To achieve the goal of a resource efficient Europe, our industry strives for a zero plastics to landfill by 2020 objective. At the actual pace this ambitious goal is significantly jeopardised. Therefore, the plastic industry calls on the policy makers to support this ambitious goal by taking measures to avoid land filling of recyclable and high calorific waste.”
Patrick Thomas closed the event on an optimistic note, stating, “our industry is a resilient one, we have always faced challenges and adapted to evolving circumstances. This trade fair is a demonstration of our strength and adaptability. We are the proud bearers of Parkes and Baekeland legacy, our material is the material of innovation and creativity. It has inspired architects, designers, engineers and inventors in every sector and it will continue to push the boundaries of human genius and innovation.”