The increasing level of the globalisation of business processes has led to structural changes for raw material suppliers and customers of the packaging, which have far-reaching effects on plastics packaging companies. As for all large companies, it is essential for large purchasers of packaging today to have a global presence. They expect that packaging manufacturers will be capable of providing local deliveries to them, wherever they may be located. Those who manufacture products in China assume that their packaging supplier will also build a factory there.
Increasingly raw materials suppliers, such as BASF and Shell, are merging in full or part to remain competitive in the global market. The trend is moving towards raw materials supplies being restricted to pure plastics without any additives, in order to streamline production. Plastics processors will need to purchase additives such as stabilisers, pigments and lubricants separately and then mix them themselves to obtain the correct blend.
This means that the raw material suppliers will shift responsibility for raw materials to the plastics processing industry. If this trend becomes established it will be essential that the plastics processors acquire the necessary expertise and invest in new specialised machinery to meet this challenge. It is also unavoidable that small and medium-sized companies will have to join forces to form larger groups and operate on a European or global level.
This means that, on the one hand, they will form a counterbalance to the raw material suppliers, while on the other they will only be able to offer their customers a comprehensive range of packaging through consolidated purchasing with other plastics processors.
At the same time, wide-ranging joint ventures between companies will allow small and medium-sized companies to gain better financial control. On a political level, too, co-operation is urgently required. There is a whole series of very professional national and sector associations, such as the Plastic Packaging Industry Association in Germany, the British Plastics Federation and La Federation de la Plasturgie in France, to name but a few.
It is important that the industry speaks with one voice to ensure that it does not splinter. Already there is fruitful cooperation at European level with the European Plastics Converters Federation. This activity needs to be intensified and is particularly important in the fields of environmental protection and recycling. The European Commission together with the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive of December 1994 imposed far-reaching regulations, including those for the reduction of packaging material and a high level of recycling. In Germany the packaging industry has suffered a loss of competitiveness on a European level as a result of the expensive waste separation system of the Dual System. Regulations need to be standardised in all countries of the EU to prevent this imbalance.
The collective force of the plastics processing industry in the EuPC is therefore important and has to be expanded by more effort from the plastics industry.