“We are plastics” as a driver of the circular economy

Düsseldorf, 18 October 2022 – The initiative “We are plastics” – consisting of the major associations of plastics manufacturers, processors and machinery manufacturers – will be presenting itself for the first time to the international trade public, including the media, at K, the world’s leading trade fair for plastics, in Düsseldorf.

We Are Plastics Logo

In addition to the extensive programme at the special K areas of Plastics Europe Deutschland and VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery, as well as the initiative’s own presence at the booth of the Gesamtverband Kunststoffverarbeitender Unternehmen (German Association of Plastics Converters – GKV), the associations now provided information about their goals, tasks and resources at a press conference following the official opening media event of the trade fair.

Linear becomes circular: advances and challenges of the transformation

The initiative, which sees itself as a guide for and driver of the circular economy, reported on the progress and challenges of the transformation, its own activities, but also its own expectations regarding the political guidelines that are necessary to achieve a circular plastics economy. The leading themes of the K-Show – climate protection, circular economy and digitalisation – play an important role in this. Investments in new and established sorting and recycling processes, design for recycling, and the development of new raw material sources in increasingly climate-neutral production processes are action points on the way to a circular economy, as the sponsoring associations of “We are plastics” explained. They also noted that a re-thinking in terms of material and its applications is already in full swing.

The circular economy helps reduce material consumption and save energy, thereby making a positive contribution towards climate protection. This represents a decisive advantage – especially in times of rising energy and material costs.

According to forecasts, plastics consumption worldwide will increase by around 20 percent by 2026, which underscores the importance of the material, and highlights the responsibility that accompanies it. In particular, there must be a significant change in the way plastic waste is handled. It must be considered as valuable material that makes up an important part of the resource base. The waste must be regranulated, constituting the basis for new plastic products. This will save energy, because regranulates consume less energy than new plastics. Consequently, the circular economy also contributes to a positive CO2 balance.

Experiencing the circular economy at K

K2022 Circular Economy Forum Beitrag

Establishing a circular economy requires firm action and the cooperation of many players. At K 2022, raw material manufacturers, machine manufacturers and processors will show how this can be achieved. New, recyclable materials and products will be on display, as well as the technologies needed to manufacture them. At the Circular Economy Forum on the exhibition grounds, machine manufacturers will use operational machinery to demonstrate what is already possible today – from sorting and shredding plastic waste through regranulating, to the finished product made from recyclate. The digitalisation of processes plays a major role in this regard. The circular economy will only work at its full potential if companies within the value chain cooperate across the board. This also means that information on production and materials will be made available not only within the production line, but across company boundaries. For example, traceability of materials at the end of a product’s life facilitates sorting and therefore high-quality recycling.

Plotting the political course

In addition to corporate commitment, the right course must now be plotted at national and EU political levels. According to the “We are plastics” initiative, in order for a circular greenhouse gas-neutral plastics industry to become a reality, new priorities in the political agenda are urgently called for. The goal must be to ensure the continuation of the industry’s production processes – without having to shut down plants. If necessary, this also includes government support for a reliable energy supply, as has now been initiated by the Gas Commission in Germany to limit gas prices.

However, “We are plastic” sees only what it considers to be initial superficial steps. What still needs to be done at national level now is:

  • The approval procedure times for industrial plants need to be significantly reduced up. Permits in Germany take four to five times longer to be issued than in the USA. For companies to invest in sustainable technologies and efficient plants, approval procedures must become internationally competitive.
  • Sufficient affordable renewable energy must be made available for the German plastics industry; this is the only way to succeed in turning away from fossil fuels for electricity and heat.
  • In order to be able to make investments in the circular economy, companies need planning security and political support. “We are plastics” therefore advocates a market-driven and technology-open framework for raw material supply and the circular economy to accelerate the industry’s path to climate neutrality. The fact that key technologies such as the capture and use of CO2, the location of industrial plants and the rapid development of wind farms are discriminated against in many places is slowing down change.
  • The announced national strategy for the circular economy must be developed in 2023 through a multi-stakeholder approach, for example also via value creation platforms such as “We are plastics”, where the relevance of plastics as a material for the green changes in energy, building and construction as well as mobility, are understood and reflected upon.

Beitrag K Messe Preview Plastic Europe Klimaschutz

During K, international and national experts will discuss the current changes in global economic and energy systems, possible ways to increase the resilience of the industry, and the decisive – also political – levers for achieving a circular greenhouse gas-neutral industry at the special show in Hall 6, the central dialogue forum of the trade fair.

The plastics industry will consistently pursue the path towards a circular economy. It has the strength, the motivation and also the expertise. As the first international plastics trade fair in three years, K 2022 is being held at exactly the right time, but also at a particularly challenging one. For visitors, it is a source of inspiration and a booster of the circular plastics economy, showing how more circularity and resilience go hand in hand.




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