The past year got off to a promising start: the economy recovered faster than some forecasters had predicted and there was something like an upswing in the air. But then came the countless force majeure reports. Plant stoppages and production downtime completely derailed supply chains; there were delivery bottlenecks and skyrocketing prices in all sectors; and materials became so scarce that there were hardly any exports.
Amid this tense situation, many companies were sold or broken up last year. The public hype brought the industry to the close attention of investors and set the market in motion. The ambitious European climate change targets also made their contribution. Once again, the topic of sustainability and resource conservation through efficient recycling management has been at the top of the German plastics industry’s to-do list since the environmental summit in Glasgow late in 2021. The industry is being driven by the entry into force of the disposable plastic regulation and the development of a new waste and disposal law aimed at higher recyclate quotas.
But the use of recyclates often fails owing to image or price, not least because the processing of post-consumer waste is very complex. Customers are put off when products become more expensive. For this reason, the acceptance and image of recyclates must be promoted. The bad image of plastics is unjustified because recyclates have to meet the same requirements and standards as virgin materials.
Acceptance can only be achieved through constant delivery of a consistent quality. Society must give plastics a value again and the plastics industry must do everything in its power to ensure that the often false and unrealistic statements made by politicians about a world without plastics become a thing of the past. People talk about disposable plastic and bans but they forget that, for example, the CO2 balance would be worse without plastics. It is yet more composite materials that are difficult or impossible to recycle which should be prevented from coming on to the market.
This year began with even more scepticism and no sign of optimism. The devastating supply situation is continuing to have a massive impact on a world economy that was not at all prepared for such a situation. In addition, there is the worrying crisis between NATO and Russia; concern surrounding rising inflation in the German economy; and the exorbitant increases in energy charges which are driving spiralling material costs.
An important goal for 2022 should be to promote positive communication on the subject of plastic. Society must be shown what plastic can do and can contribute. Even the pandemic has highlighted that we can’t dispense with plastics; in medical applications, for example, how else are we supposed to preserve blood?
This year, further CO2 reduction targets must be set and practicable material cycles must be implemented. The EU's goals are high and can only be achieved through a clear legal framework and the promotion of efficient recycling structures.