Germany's plastics processing industry continues to see impressive growth with the rising use of plastics in automobiles, electronics and medical technology.
``The positive trend will continue even beyond the year 2000,'' said Norbert Wagner, president of the German Association of the Plastics Processing Industry, popularly known as GKV.
Wagner said carmakers are under pressure to reduce vehicle weight, boosting use of plastics.
His comments reflected sales data for the first six months of 1998. German processors reported a 7 percent hike, compared with the same period in 1997, with sales rising to 35.6 billion deutsche marks ($25.7 billion). Processors in 1997 had reported a 4.2 percent increase, to DM68.4 billion ($39 billion) for the full year.
Wagner said plastics now comprise 12 percent of an average automobile, up from 10 percent last year. He added that recycling programs are helping to reduce environmental impediments to additional growth.
German industry has benefited from the strong growth recorded in exports. Overseas demand pushed export sales up 10.7 percent to DM9.4 billion ($5.73 billion) during the first six months of the current year, whereas domestic sales rose 5.7 percent to DM26.3 billion ($16 billion).
Employment is up 2.9 percent to 271,514, and the number of firms rose 3 percent to 2,711.
Some 366 of the new firms are in eastern Germany. Companies in that region posted 12.4 percent sales growth, to 4.8 billion marks ($2.93 billion). Productivity in the region has increased 20 percent during the past six months, and now stands at 90.7 percent of the level in western Germany.
Plastic cutlery is one market that has suffered recently, after a number of towns imposed levies and surcharges on the product.
The Federal Constitutional Court, Germany's highest court, ruled in July that the charges are unconstitutional. Wagner expects the cities to reimburse firms for the money already collected.