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US Commercial Services highlights opportunities in Europe

By: Charlotte Eyre

April 2, 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (April 2, 8:30 p.m. ET) — The European plastics markets of Germany and Poland hold great potential for U.S. companies, especially in the areas of sustainability and smart materials, representatives from the U.S. Commercial Service said in a speech at NPE2012.

Although both Germany and Poland both currently import and export mostly from other European Union countries, their plastics industries would welcome American expertise in regards to green plastics and recycling.

Ania Janczewska, the representative for the Polish market, indicated that her country had a lot to learn about sustainability as it currently sends as much as 70 percent of plastics waste to landfill. Germany is similarly keen on improving sustainability and is also in the market for materials to recycle, for example PET, said Kirsten Hentschel, the representative for that country.

As well as green materials and recycling expertise, American companies could provide the Polish market with technical expertise for producing styrene and polystyrene, as well as engineering polymers, said Janczewska. In Germany, there are opportunities for manufacturers of medical plastics, smart plastics for electronics, plastics for building applications and nano materials, said Hentschel.

Both speakers said their countries are showing great potential for growth, despite ongoing economic problems in the Eurozone.

“Exports from our plastics industry totaled $48 billion in 2010 and Germany is the sixth largest trading partner of the US,” said Hentschel, adding that there are 2,200 US plastics companies in Germany and 3,000 German plastics companies in the United States.

The biggest growth in terms of sectors was the automotive and electro engineering market, which showed growth of 10.8 percent between 2009 and 2010. In terms of applications, packaging accounted for 35 percent of the total, followed by construction (24 percent), automotive (9 percent) and electrical (6 percent).

Some 80 percent of imports are from European countries but imports from the United States increased a massive 50 percent in 2010 as the German market needed a large intake of materials during the economic crisis. However, this increase in American imports will not be sustained this year, warned Hentschel.

Poland’s smaller plastics industry is the “princess to Germany’s queen,” said Janczewska, who stressed, however, that the country has great growth potential.

Between 2008 and 2011, the country’s GDP grew 15.5 percent – much greater than most European countries – and plastics consumption currently stands at around 2.5 metric tons per year.

And unlike Germany, the country is much less developed so there is greater opportunity for growth. Per capital plastics consumption is almost 60 lbs less than Western European countries, said Janczewska.