The circular economy ranks among the guidance topics at K 2019, the world’s leading trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry in October in Düsseldorf: Messe Düsseldorf and PlasticsEurope Deutschland jointly organise a K special show entitled “Plastics shape the future”. It will provide a unique platform for industry, science, politicians and NGOs to engage in an exchange of criticism, experiences and best practices – discussing circular economy and further innovative approaches to solutions for more sustainability. Furthermore, the trade fair business could traditionally bring fresh impulses for growth and set a positive course for the industry in Europe. This is necessary when looking at the current business data from plastics manufacturers in Germany where the downturn in customer sectors and in the global economy has left its mark in production.
Speaking to media delegates in May in Wesseling near Cologne, Dr Michael Zobel (chairman of PlasticsEurope Deutschland e. V.) stated that the good developments of earlier years did not last in 2018 for the plastics manufacturing industry, due to a difficult market environment. Dr Zobel described a positive start in the first months which, however, was followed by a major trend reversal into the negative in the 2nd half-year at the latest. At the end of 2018, plastics manufacture dropped by 3.1% (2017: +3.7%) to 19.3 million tonnes. Sales rose moderately by 1.1% to 27.4 billion euros.
The main sales markets (5 European countries) and fields of application (packaging, building & construction, automotive) for plastics manufacturers in Germany remained almost unchanged, while sales and employment developed slightly positively in 2018. However, after several years of growth there was a first drop in production. That was mainly attributable to the downturn in the global economy and slowing momentum in Europe and some customer sectors. In his outlook 2019, Dr Zobel highlighted the strong export orientation of German plastics manufacturing so that this industry would be particularly affected by uncertainties in the economy and world politics. Thus, it remains open for plastics manufacturers whether a sideways movement or a further production decline can be expected for the present year. Zobel held out the prospect of a business push from K 2019 for local manufacturers.
Nowadays, there is no media event of the plastics industry that does not address the littering issue. In this connection, Dr Zobel mentioned increasing opposition to plastics from politicians and the civil society. He also identified marine litter and environmental pollution from carelessly disposed plastics packaging as pressing problems of our time. Dr Zobel stated the need for sustainable solutions for the professional collection and sorting of waste and for further investments in recycling technologies worldwide, in order to drive forward the circular economy. In these respects, he called Germany an international pioneer. According to Dr Zobel, also cooperation beyond value chains is greatly important. Numerous initiatives with an involvement of the plastics industry are underway. They transfer knowledge and technologies to emerging and developing countries and trigger information campaigns for the general public as well as clean-up activities in areas where plastics waste already poses a heavy strain.
The K 2019 and the K special show will look more deeply into these topics and initiatives.