The plastics industry is a dynamic industry that is developing a lot in Europe and particularly in the field of injection molding, which mainly enables the production of plastic packaging (or thermoplastics). However, if the demand for plastic packaging keeps on increasing, movements against the current growing use of plastic are appearing everywhere throughout Europe to denounce and prevent the waste of these raw materials, that are precious but harmful to the environment.
Plastic in Europe: figures
Europe has a very dynamic plastics processing industry, which annually consumes about 57.5 million tons of plastics. The most intensive plastic european industries are the packaging industry, leading with 38% of annual production, then the leisure products and medical products, with 28 % of production, then in the construction and automobile sectors and with an annual consumption of 21%. However, the production of plastics in Europe decreased by 4% over the past five years, which the United States are suspected to be the cause because of the advantageous production costs regarding the petrochemical industry.
To mention the example of France, production has instead increased by 2.5% this year and does not seem to convey any particular interest regarding environmental issues posed by the plastics industry. France, however, being under de-industrialization, and Europe having troubles to go on competing with its global competitors, it goes without saying that the transition is difficult to implement in practice.
A paradigm shift
Plastic, ideal for creating packaging is a very flexible material that allows it to adapt to all types of goods. And for good reason : 50% of European goods are packed in plastic. However, as discussed in our article The plastics industry demands for drastic measures for the industrial waste treatment, the plastics industry is also aware of the losses caused by negligence with respect to energy recovery and recycling systems. Thus, we notice on the European stage the creation of movements and/or startups entirely devoted to this topic.
As a matter of fact, packaging reduction is a new concern for businesses, which are not interested in recycling, but in pre-recycling. There is therefore a shift to another paradigm for recycling, which emphasizes a decrease in the production of packaging rather than the actual sorting system. The German-led initiative to create an “unboxed” store is the perfect example: the aim is to change the consumer’s habits so that companies change their production processes. It is also the goal set by the Grenelle, which led to the production of 100,000 less packagings between 2007 and 2012, and a general decline from plastic packaging weight over the last 10 years, which is today on average 17% of the total package.
Europe seems to be tempted by the savings that could be made by reducing the share of plastics in packaging but not at the expense of competitiveness, as such changes involve alterations in infrastructure and industrial equipment that are not without incurring costs for businesses.