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UK plastic demand grows 1.2% in 2012 but country well behind EU on recycling rates

Demand for plastics in the UK in 2012 increased by 1.2% over the year before, according to PlasticsEurope, the trade association representing the European Union’s 27 member states.

Demand for plastics materials stood at 3.7 million tonnes in 2012, of which packaging took a 44.3%, building and construction 19.2% and automotive 5.9% (see below). Even so, primary plastics production decreased by 6.3% compared to 2011.

PlasticsEurope’s latest report, Facts and Figures UK, is said to be the first estimates of the 2012 data and shows that, globally, there has been a compound annual growth rate of about 8.7%.

This is something of a recovery because, after 50 years of continuous growth, global plastics production fell during the economic crisis in 2008.

The picture is less positive across Europe as a whole. The estimated demand for plastics materials in the EU 27 countries was 45.5 million tonnes in 2012, 3.2% lower than in 2011. Packaging applications accounted for the largest proportion at 40.2% with building and construction at 20.8% and automotive at 8%.

“Despite global slow recovery, the plastics industry is optimistic that Europe remains a core centre of its activities, which is why it invests heavily in R&D to guarantee innovation and economic growth in the ED” said Kim Christiansen, a regional director for PlasticsEurope.

The latest data on waste management, published in 2012 but referring to 2011 results, indicates continuing progress in recovery.

The overall recovery rate for used plastics in the EU, including recycling and energy recovery was 59.6%: for the UK the rate had increased to 27.3%. For recycling specifically the average European rate was 25.1% with the UK on 19.9%.

  • PlasticsEurope has more than 100 member companies, producing over 90% of all polymers across the EU, and supplied the illustration above. This is the fifth year it has produced the European data and the second that UK information has been separated.

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