The European plastics industry has published a manifesto alerting officials in Brussels to the many impediments it faces, and which it hopes will influence European Union policy.
The wide ranging manifesto, written by leading trade bodies PlasticsEurope and EuPC, makes recommendations to policymakers, seeking their support for the industry’s competitiveness which is under threat from regulation, high energy costs and negative perceptions.
Patrick Thomas, president of PlasticsEurope and CEO of Bayer MaterialScience, said at a press conference in Brussels that the manifesto’s issues are familiar: “What’s new is that it’s the entire plastics industry… getting together and bringing our combined forces to bear on the new [European] Commission.”
The manifesto was launched on Nov. 4 at PolyTalk 2014, organized by PlasticsEurope. It has been sent to policymakers at EU and national levels.
“Today we move to the front foot,” Thomas said at the conference opening.
Journalists asked if the main impediment to competitiveness is Europe’s high energy costs in comparison with the U.S., which has been much quicker to exploit shale gas reserves.
“High energy costs are not the issue,” Thomas said. “The issue is a level playing field.”
Energy costs vary widely in EU countries, and movement towards energy market harmonization has been slow.
Michael Kundel, president of EuPC and CEO of film maker Renolit Group, said: “We need a single EU energy market and a level playing field in order to ensure competitiveness.”
The manifesto outlines challenges for the European plastics industry in five key areas: energy and raw materials, where costs are high in comparison with the U.S. and its shale gas boom; maintaining a skilled workforce when the number of science graduates and technical apprentices is declining; future EU investments in infrastructure and new production facilities; the lack of harmonized chemicals legislation across EU countries; and challenges of waste management, with wide variation of recycling and recovery rates across the EU.
Image By: Renolit Group
Michael Kundel, president of EuPC and CEO of Renolit Group.
In its conclusion, the manifesto says: “A favorable climate for investment in Europe is crucial for the plastics industry to continue to make a meaningful contribution to European economy and society. One of the key challenges lies in creating the right conditions to make the most of our inherent capacity for innovation in Europe.”
The recommendations to policymakers are:
• Ensuring more competitive costs for energy and raw materials.
• Ensure the completion of a single European energy market.
• Enable responsible exploration and production of shale gas in Europe.
• Promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in Europe and make it more attractive to young generations.
• Integrate plastics manufacturing, converting and recycling into curricula in schools.
• Create a European degree in plastics at superior level (Technician/Engineer).
• Encourage apprenticeships at all levels in the plastics industry.
• Provide incentives for energy efficiency in buildings.
• Accelerate the introduction of innovations to market.
• Promote the uptake of new technologies to ensure social acceptance.
• Encourage a risk-based approach with evidence-based assessment to inform political decisions.
• Strengthen the position of the chief scientific advisor to the President of the European Commission and create a network of equivalent positions all over Europe to advise national governments.
• Harmonize chemicals legislation following a ‘one market – one regulation’ approach.
• Promote better controls of products entering the EU to ensure compliance with European regulations.
• Include the plastics sector in policies relating to re-industrialisation and initiatives around the circular economy.
• Create a dedicated resource to foster the interests of plastics in the European Commission.
• Enforce a ban or phase out of landfilling of recoverable waste to stimulate resource efficiency, further develop the plastics recycling industry and create more jobs.
• Discourage littering through public awareness campaigns on the value of plastic products.