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Austrian plastics group makes mark at NPE

By: Charlotte Eyre

April 16, 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (April 16, 1 p.m. ET) — While visitors to NPE2012 were sure to have seen Austrian giants such as Engel and Greiner, one trade group was highlighting the smaller plastics companies the country has to offer.

The Plastics Cluster of Upper Austria, part of Clusterland Upper Austria, says it took part in NPE to help promote the Austrian plastics industry, as well as encourage dialogue between Austrian and foreign businesses.

“We’re hoping to promote Austria’s industry here in the United States because it’s hard for our companies to internationalize themselves,” said spokeswoman Anke Merkl-Rachbauer. “They work well in Europe but it becomes a lot harder once they cross over to the United States or go the other way towards Asia.”

Merkl-Rachbauer says it is hard to know exactly how much cooperation there is between Austrian and American plastics firms but estimates that most companies will conduct around 5-20 percent of their business in the United States.

Several Austrian companies were exhibiting at an Advantage Austria stand at NPE2012, including mold makers such as Elmet and ifw Group, which makes high-tech molds for plastic pipe fittings; extrusion specialists like SBI of Hollabrunn and Pucking-based Kuag Kunststoff-Maschinen-und Anlagenbau GmbH, which makes downstream equipment; and companies with recycling expertise, such as Lindner-Recyclingtech.

According to the cluster, Austria is a very attractive market for plastics companies because of its central position within Europe as well as governmental tax breaks.

“Austria is an R&D center, which our government recognizes,” said Merkl-Rachbauer. “Some 10 percent of R&D expenses are refunded in cash.”

During an SPI conference, the Austria cluster highlighted several overall trends in the European plastics industry, with bioplastics and recycling being a particular strength.

According to speaker Sandra Koerner, the European Union recovers twice as much plastics waste than the United States. And the EU accounts for 24.9 percent of world’s bottle collection rates, compared to America’s 15.2 percent.

Bioplastics and carbon reduction are also very important in Europe, she added, highlighting sustainable Austrian innovations such as the Trodat Printy 4.0, which the company said is the world’s first carbon-neutral stamp, made with up to 65 percent post-consumer recycled plastics. Austria is also a leader in bioplastics, with 125 companies in the country involved in this area.

In addition, the European region is a hotspot for medical materials, said Koerner. Plastics comprise 50 percent of materials used in this market and the industry’s research and development quota in this area is more than 8 percent.

Cluster Upper Austria was established in 2005 with the aim of improving the competitiveness of businesses in the Upper Austria region. Other clusters in the group include automotive, environmental technology, and design and media.