In June, about 70 journalists from all around the globe travelled to Düsseldorf to follow the three-day K 2022 preview (June 20 to 22, 2022). Fourteen “K” trade fair exhibitors shared with the national and international press representatives a first outlook to the planned appearance at the world’s leading trade show for plastics, which will take place at the Düsseldorf exhibition site in October 2022. In the preview kick-off on June 20, a high-level panel introduced the three leading topics of the K 2022 – namely climate protection, circular economy, and digitalisation – and shared information about the economic status of the industry.
Petra Cullmann, Executive Director of Messe Düsseldorf, did not hide the fact that she was particularly looking forward to the coming “K” trade fair. People want to meet personally again and exchange their opinions, said Cullmann. At long last, there is again an opportunity to have new technologies and products presented directly, to also touch them, and to enter into a close dialogue on key challenges and topics. Here, Cullmann emphasised the great importance of the “K” trade fair: this is the place where the “who’s who” of the industry gets together, an exhibition area of 175,000 m2 – i.e., the entire trade fair site – has already been booked, and about 3,000 exhibitors from 61 countries have announced their attendance.
With regards to COVID-19, the best possible protective measures will be taken for the guests and visitors of the “K” trade fair: all exhibition halls and conference rooms on the trade fair premises in Düsseldorf are equipped with HEPA filters.
At the beginning of his statement, Ulrich Reifenhäuser, President of the exhibitors’ council of the plastics trade fair (“K-Präsident”) and Managing Director of the Reifenhäuser Group, highlighted the repeatedly high expectations which the exhibitors have on this “K” trade fair. Although smart digitalisation solutions had kept many processes alive during the COVID-19 pandemic, personal meetings are needed to really convince people, discuss, and develop strategies together with partners.
The trade fair’s perspective was directly followed by the forecasts of the associations sponsoring the “K” trade fair, which have deteriorated in the light of COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. The first forecast was shared by Thorsten Kühmann, Managing Director of the trade association Kunststoff- und Gummimaschinen in the VDMA, the association of Germany’s engineering industry. Interrupted logistical processes, especially to the Ukraine and Russia, and the strict lockdown measures taken by the Chinese government, such as the closing of the large container harbour in Shanghai, had major implications for the supply chains, and still continue to have. The prices are rising, putting companies under great pressure, said Kühmann, who expects a stagnating economic development in the plastics engineering industry for 2022.
Ingemar Bühler, Managing Director of Plastics Europe Deutschland, the German plastics manufacturer association, expressed himself in similar vein. Although the demand for plastics is presently growing at a significant pace, also due to the sustained economic catch-up related to the COVID-19 pandemic, trends such as the climate protection and digitalisation are important drivers of the economic development, too. However, the procurement costs in his member companies have increased substantially, as value chains are partly interrupted or even broke off, said Bühler. Anyway, the present geopolitical situation makes it now difficult to give forecasts for the rest of the year. At any rate, the high dependency of the German industry – especially of the chemical, including the plastics manufacturing industry – from Russian imports of raw materials has triggered a high pressure. Bühler concluded that alternatives for the Russian gas would need to be searched for and identified as soon as possible, and the economic development is likely to be rather restrained until the end of the year.
Both, Petra Cullmann from the trade fair organiser Messe Düsseldorf and Thorsten Kühmann from VDMA subsequently highlighted the great importance of the “K” trade fair’s major topics as a signal towards the society, politics, and industries: the plastics value chains and further partners need further efforts and collaborations, for example, to turn the circular economy into a business case for many of them. It is also clear that climate protection will not come without plastics, as Cullmann explained. Innovative solutions such as for lightweight engineering and renewable energies will be seized by the exhibitors and the special formats such as the special show Plastics shape the future, and extensively discussed prior to, during, and after the “K” trade fair.
In this context, Ulrich Reifenhäuser highlighted the key role that digitalisation plays for the progress in the circular economy and the achievement of the recycling goals formulated by the European Union. Along the value chain, new solutions are being developed such as the digital product passports for more efficient ways of recycling, said Reifenhäuser. Here, each product is given a marker, so that it can be tracked, clearly sorted, and more easily recycled. This facilitates the separation of different plastics waste flows, which is meaningful for both mechanical and chemical recycling. Pilot projects such as R-Cycle will be given a lot of attention at the trade fair, concluded the “K-Präsident”.