London - The European polymer industry has published a manifesto urging EU policy-makers to complete a single European energy market and enable responsible exploration and production of shale gas in Europe.
The wide ranging manifesto, written by leading trade bodies PlasticsEurope and EuPC, makes recommendations to policymakers, seeking their support for the industry’s competitiveness which is under threat from regulation, high energy costs and negative perceptions.
Patrick Thomas, president of PlasticsEurope and CEO of Bayer MaterialScience, said at a press conference in Brussels that the manifesto's issues are familiar: "What's new is that it's the entire plastics industry... getting together and bringing our combined forces to bear on the new [European] Commission."
The manifesto was launched on 4 Nov at PolyTalk 2014 organised by PlasticsEurope. It has been sent to policymakers at EU and national levels.
"Today we move to the front foot," said Thomas at the opening of the conference.
Journalists asked if the main impediment to competitiveness is Europe's high energy costs in comparison with the US which has been much quicker to exploit shale gas reserves.
"High energy costs are not the issue," said Thomas. "The issue is a level playing field."
Energy costs vary widely in EU countries, and movement towards energy market harmonisation has been slow.
Michael Kundel, president of EuPC and CEO of Renolit, said: "We need a single EU energy market and a level playing field in order to ensure competitiveness."
The manifesto outlines challenges for the European plastics industry in five key areas: energy and raw materials, where costs are high in comparison with the US and its shale gas boom; maintaining a skilled workforce when the number of science graduates and technical apprentices is declining; future EU investments in infrastructure and new production facilities; the lack of harmonised chemicals legislation across EU countries; challenges of waste management, with wide variation of recycling and recovery rates across the EU.
In its conclusion, the manifesto says: “A favourable climate for investment in Europe is crucial for the plastics industry to continue to make a meaningful contribution to European economy and society. One of the key challenges lies in creating the right conditions to make the most of our inherent capacity for innovation in Europe.”
The recommendations to policy-makers include ensuring more competitive costs for energy and raw materials through completion of a single European energy market and enabling responsible exploration and production of shale gas in Europe. Also, the manifesto urged measures to encourage investment in training and education and more consistent and complementary regulations.