DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — World production of plastics rose nearly 3 percent in 2012, according to figures from PlasticsEurope, the Brussels-based trade association.
Volumes rose from 280 million metric tons to 288 tonnes, said PlasticsEurope's executive director, Wilfried Haensel. In Europe the picture was more downbeat, with production sliding 3 percent and demand falling 2.5 percent, thanks to decreasing demand in key sectors such as packaging, building and construction and automotive.
Regarding difficulties Europe has experienced since the 2008-09 financial crisis, he said: "Even if we would have preferred a quicker recovery, we have so far managed to dodge the threat of globalization and remain competitive and innovative, thereby contributing 2.6 percent to Europe's GDP."
But he said lower energy and raw material prices remain "a substantial challenge."
Patrick Thomas, PlasticsEurope president and CEO of BayerMaterialScience, said 2013 would likely be viewed as one of stabilization while 2014 industry predictions suggested a "slight recovery."
PlasticsEurope also released data showing recycling and energy recovery rates of 26.3 percent (up 4.9 percent) and 35.6 percent (up 3.3 percent), respectively. Europe saw a total recovery rate of an average of 61.9 percent, up 4 percent vs. 2011.
Haensel pointed out that recycling and energy recovery vary significantly among European countries, with some recovering 100 percent of post-consumer waste and others, notably the U.K., could not reach 30 percent. In a business-as-usual scenario, Haensel said zero plastics to landfill could be achieved by 2037, but the industry is keen to accelerate this process.
"Can we afford to throw away 70 billion euros [$96 billion]? I don't think society can and nor should it," he added.