Thursday

1st Jun 2023

China tops Europe in plastics production

  • Plastic bags are widely used in China (Photo: SpirosK)

China last year overtook Europe as the world's largest producer of plastics, with the eurozone slump continuing to deepen the divide, a recent study shows.

According to the report carried out on behalf of the industry's trade association, Plastics Europe, a two-percent cut in European plastics jobs and continued company closures meant that the old continent lost its pole position to China.

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"The European Union has traditionally been an important net exporter of plastics and plastic products. This trade balance grew by over 100 percent between 2000 and 2010, reaching a total trade surplus of €15.7 billion in 2010. Despite a shrinking workforce and losing the number-one production position to China, the European plastics industry continues to be a key contributor to EU trade surplus," the report reads.

Europe accounted for 57 million tonnes (22 percent) of the global consumption last year, while China claimed 23.5 percent of the world production of plastics. But the Asian country also continued to import plastic raw material from Europe.

In a positive development, the amount of recycled and recovered plastics in 2010 increased by an average 9.3 percent year on year across the 27 EU countries, Norway and Switzerland. This figure is equal to 58 percent of all used plastics.

"The recycled quantity increased by 8.7 percent thanks to stronger activity from citizens, packaging collection schemes and recycling companies," the report notes, adding that the use of plastics in energy recovery also increased by almost ten percent.

One of the most dreaded plastic products for the environment - the ubiquitous plastic bag - is far from being on the decrease and the EU is now reviewing whether it should lift dumping restrictions on Chinese and Thai exporters. The measure was imposed in 2006 in order to protect European plastic bag producers such as France's Groupe Barbier and Spain's Plasbel.

When imposing the anti-dumping duties five years ago, the EU said Chinese and Thai exporters increased their combined share of the EU plastic-bag market to 18 percent in the 12 months through March 2005 from 14 percent in 2001.

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