The European plastics industry saw a 5.6% growth in consumption between 2001 and 2003,
despite the global economic downturn, the outbreak of war in the Middle East and highly
volatile crude oil and petrochemical feedstock prices, according to this year's report released
by PlasticsEurope (formerly known as APME).
The study also shows recycling of plastics increased by 11% between 2001 and 2002, with a
similar increase in 2003, maintaining the mechanical recycling rate of about 14% in 2003.
There was also an overall increase in the amount of plastics waste recovered across all
applications. The amount of plastics going to landfill only increased slightly between 2001
and 2003 - plastics waste is effectively being decoupled from the growth in consumption and
associated waste generation. In fact, overall volumes of plastics waste sent to landfill in
Western Europe in 2003 are estimated to be at the same level as in 1993.
These results highlight the continuing popularity of plastics, which are increasingly
recognised as one of the most energy efficient and flexible materials available to society,
according to Neil Mayne, Director of Environmental Affairs:
"Despite tough times, plastics are still the material of choice for modern society. It is
estimated that if plastics were to be replaced by more traditional materials where possible
across Western Europe, approximately 10% more energy would be required. This is the
equivalent of about 25 millions tones of crude oil or 105 million tones of CO2 greenhouse gas
emissions. The use of lightweight or insulating plastics results in dramatic energy savings
during use that would otherwise be lost if other more traditional materials were used."