Should plastics be a source of energy

Plastics are among the most versatile materials there is. Their unique qualities - enormous strength, versatility and stability - enable us all to have a lifestyle that would be inconceivable without them.

Protect plastic packaging

Think of packaging, for example. Plastic packaging protects perishable foods and keeps them fresher longer, so there's less waste while preserving taste and nutritional value. In the UK, for example, only 2% of food spoilage, while in developing countries it is 40% to 50%. This is mainly thanks to plastic packaging. A cucumber loses moisture quickly and would be unsaleable within three days if it weren't for only 1.5 grams of foil (1). Since the plastic packaging is also transparent, consumers can look at the food without touching it. As a result, the products are protected from pressure points and also less damaged in other ways.

Durability for buildings

In the construction industry, plastic is used in many areas because of its durability and resistance to corrosion, from window frames and insulation to water and sewer pipes. Plastic provides energy-saving insulation against cold and heat and can be used effectively to reduce noise. In addition, plastics enable perfect surfaces and floor coverings that are easy to clean and maintain.

Cost savings in transportation

Plastics are light, corrosion-free and can easily be cast into complex shapes without the need for additional assembly or fastening. These properties make them perfect for use in planes, trains, ships and vehicles. Thanks to plastic, vehicle designers have the opportunity to combine high performance, competitive prices, design and reliability with the requirements for comfort, safety, energy efficiency and environmental compatibility. A modern car consists of around 11% plastic. This reduces the vehicle's weight and emissions are reduced accordingly. Around 22% of the Airbus A 380 (the largest civil aircraft in the world) is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, which helps reduce fuel consumption per passenger in the amount (consumption) of a mid-range car. Plastic composite panels in Swiss trains have led to a weight reduction of 25%. This resulted in significant energy savings (1).

Electrics and electronics

The developers of electrical appliances prefer plastics because of their performance advantages, their resource efficiency, their low weight, the possibility of miniaturization and their electrical and thermal insulation properties. From simple cables and household appliances to cell phones and DVD players, almost all modern devices are made of plastic. Thanks to their unique electrical insulation properties, plastics are suitable for the production of safe and efficient electrical installations.

Plastics in the agricultural sector

The increasing use of plastic in agriculture enables farmers and gardeners to produce more and better food while reducing their environmental impact. In agriculture, plastics are used to create the right conditions for optimal food production in regions where they are not naturally available or can be produced in some other cost-effective manner. Fruits and vegetables that are grown under the protection of a plastic cover are usually of better quality than when grown in the open air.

Plastic in healthcare

Modern health systems benefit enormously from medical products made of plastic that we take for granted today: disposable syringes, blood bags, heart valves, artificial corneas or hearing aids. Thanks to their extraordinary permeability properties and their compatibility in combination with other materials, plastic packaging is particularly suitable for use in the medical field.

A revolution in sports and leisure

Plastics have revolutionized sport. From the running tracks on which Olympic athletes sprint for new records, to running and climbing shoes, clothing, safety equipment such as helmets or knee pads, to the equipment of sports stadiums (water and sewage pipes, seats, roof elements), plastics from the world of sports are not to imagine without. Almost every sports ball contains plastic material. Modern high performance shock absorbing tennis rackets are made using plastic composite materials. Highly developed carbon fiber composite materials are used in racing boats, with the help of which boat races achieve a whole new quality.

Plastics are economically sustainable

The plastics industry makes a significant contribution to the global economy. It drives innovation, improves the quality of life and contributes to resource efficiency and climate protection. In Europe alone, more than 1.6 million people work in over 50,000 companies that manufacture or process plastics and generate annual sales of 300 billion euros. The plastics industry behaves as a responsible part of society and offers a wide range of attractive jobs that leave plenty of room for individual progress and further development.

Plastics are socially sustainable

Plastics are also socially sustainable and make a significant contribution to safety. The plastic used in cars, for example, helps to reduce the weight of the vehicle and thus allows additional safety systems such as airbags to be installed. Plastic foams provide the necessary shock absorption for life-saving products such as bicycle helmets. In modern healthcare, the important role of plastics is evident. Plastics are used in surgery, medical care products, drugs, delivery systems, and drug packaging.

Plastics help protect the environment

Plastic has an excellent environmental profile. Remember that only 4% of the world's oil production is used to make plastics. At the same time, plastic products help to make people's lives more pleasant. Lightweight and durable plastics are used in our cars and airplanes, making them more energy efficient, comfortable and safe. Plastics are used to keep our homes warm and dry. And when plastics have reached the end of their useful life, they can be recycled. If this turns out to be inappropriate for economic or environmental reasons, plastics are still a valuable source of energy.

Environmental protection through life cycle assessment

The plastics industry advocates strict and careful life cycle assessments to monitor the sustainability of their products. A comprehensive life cycle assessment contains environmentally relevant data not only on the material itself, but also on the manufacturing process, transport, service life and disposal options (recycling, landfilling, energy generation). It also includes a careful evaluation of the benefits of a product and comparisons with alternative solutions. Plastic products generally do great compared to alternatives when viewed holistically in this way.

Social responsibility

Like many other companies, the behavior of the plastics industry ensures that its activities comply with legal requirements, ethical principles and international standards. By applying a set of principles, the plastics industry takes social responsibility for its actions. Together with consumers, their employees, cities and municipalities and all interested parties from the public, it strives to have a positive impact on the environment.

Plastics for a better life

Every day, plastic products help make people's lives a little better. They conserve natural resources and protect the environment for future generations. No other industry is in a position to manufacture products and materials that enable us to achieve more with less and thus make better use of our resources.


(1) British plastics federation: Recycling and Sustainability