In an Oct. 18 news briefing on the eve of K 2022
, the managing director of Plastics Europe Deutschland e.V. laid out in no uncertain terms the precariousness of the German plastics industry due to debilitating energy and raw material shortages.
"The plastics industry [in Germany] always has been critically important to support research and innovation for the world," said Ingemar Bühler, managing director of Plastics Europe. "But we cannot move at the speed we need within the [current] politics."
Bühler's comments were part of a joint briefing from Germany's three major plastics-based associations — Plastics Europe; the German Association of the Plastics Converters (GKV); and VDMA, the major German plastics and rubber machinery trade group. The three groups discussed progress of their collaborative "We Are Plastics" initiative that has communicated the value of plastics and the transformation to a circular economy.
The initiative, formed in May 2021, has shifted from its communications core to one more focused on political action, said Mara Hancker, managing director for communication with the German Association for Plastics Packaging and Films who helps head up "We Are Plastics." The three associations have recently made financial commitments to the initiative for the next three years and possibly beyond, Hancker said.
Collaboration is critical now, Bühler said, as high energy and gas prices have slowed down growth and threaten the German plastics industry's perch as a global innovation leader. German politicians have not listened to the industry's need for energy and gas price relief and a consistent flow of affordable energy, he said. A collaborative lobbying approach could show more strength.
That work will begin early next year and could take a great deal of time to get the attention of German politicians, Bühler said. Convincing others of the positive attributes of plastics in daily life is one starting point, he said. But it is only a start.
"We've had the impression that [the German government] has made no decision to keep the plastics industry in our region," he said. Hancker added that while some may wonder whether the joint activity is really needed, "we have the need to join together to collaborate now, in the coming months and years, than ever before."