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EUROPEAN PLASTICS CONVERTERS

Plastics Converters Company
EUPC Packaging, Building & Automotive Divisions
Plastics Packaging Markets
Economic Factor-Plastics Packaging Industry
Globalisation-Plastics Packaging
Innovation/Service-Plastics Packaging

Plastics Processing Industry - Plastics, Plastic Converters, Plastic Packaging, Food Packaging, Medical Packaging, Rigid Packaging


EuPC is committed to promote the most appropriate plastics waste management options according to the different social, geographical, environmental and economic circumstances: material (mechanical and feedstock) recycling.

Plastics are at the heart of providing the answer to a continued drive towards Sustainable Development.

Created in 1989 at the initiative of six national plastics processing associations, EuPC was formed after the dissolution of Eutraplast and AEC. EuPC was set up to influence the EU decision-making process of regulations affecting its industry.

In 1995, EuPC started to adapt its organisational structure in order to represent effectively the market interests of the European plastics converting industry. The association needed to focus its activities more on market development without losing the issues management and the common problems affecting plastics converters such as Health, Safety and Environment, Raw Materials, Trade and Communication.

In December 2001, new structure with 3 divisions: Packaging, Building & Construction, Automotive & Transport. A Policy Forum was also set up for the members to review yearly the EuPC policies and provide advice and information to the Steering Committee.

In May 2002, enlarged European membership with new national plastics associations from EU candidate countries.

Objective

EuPC is the professional representative body of plastics converters within Europe whose activity embraces all sectors of the plastics converting industry including recycling.

Founded in 1989, the Association focuses its activities on market development as well as on the issues management and the common problems affecting plastics converters such as Health, Safety and Environment, Raw Materials, Trade or Communication.

EuPC members are national plastics processing associations representing the plastics converting industry and/or the manufacturing sectors in more than 20 countries, and about 25 European sectorial associations representing at a European level a particular sector/market/material of the plastics processing industry.

EuPC`s overall objective is to defend and promote the interests of the European plastics converting industry through the following activities

  • Voicing the industry`s opinion towards European and international institutions and non-governmental organisations;
  • Maintaining relationships with corresponding organisations in Europe and worldwide;
  • Carrying out business surveys, studies and research projects in all aspects of the plastics processing industry.

Several Sector Groups have already been set up inside the EuPC structure representing a specific product or sector on the European level. These Sector Groups are considered as members of EuPC within the general activities.

EuPC is structured into 3 Market Divisions representing the main markets of the plastics converting industry: Packaging, Building and Construction, Automotive and Transport. Other Divisions can be set up by decision of the EuPC Steering Committee.

  • EuPC Packaging Division 
  • EuPC Building and Construction
  • EuPC Automotive and Transport Division

Four ``Horizontal Committees`` complete and strengthen this structure, each having interactions with the three Divisions

  • Health, Safety and Environment Committee
  • Raw Materials Committee
  • Trade Policy Committee
  • Communication Committee

The ``Policy Forum`` gathers all the members of EuPC once a year to review the EuPC Policies and provide advice and information to the Steering Committee.


 Plastic Converting Plastic Processing

Packaging Division

Represents and promotes the interests of the European Plastics Packaging Industry and fosters sustainable business conditions for this sector

Packaging Division Working Groups

Regulation, Standardisation and Food Contact, Economic and Trade Communication and Technical Committee Packaging for Dangerous Goods

Plastics in Packaging

The Packaging sector is the largest consumer of plastics in Europe. Around half of all Western Europe`s goods are now packaged in Plastics, and yet -thanks to constant innovation and achievement of resource efficiency- these plastics account for only 20 per cent by weight of all packaging materials.

Plastics Packaging Applications

  • Plastic Bags and Plastic Sacks
  • Plastic Blow Moulded Containers
  • Plastic Food Packaging
  • Plastic Packaging for Soaps
  • Plastics for Detergents and Cosmetics
  • Plastics for Pharmaceuticals
  • Plastic Films
  • Plastics for Transit Packaging

Plastics in Packaging: the perfect tool to achieve Sustainable Development

Building and Construction Division

Represents and promotes the interests of the European Plastics Converters towards their customers and the European Institutions through

  • being a provider of information
  • being a platform of reflection and positioning
  • being a promoter of plastics Building and Construction technologies and products

Building and Construction Division Working Groups

Drinking Water, Fire Safety, Sustainable Construction and Dangerous Substances

Plastics in Building and Construction

The Building and Construction sector - currently the second largest user of plastics in Europe - is expected still to grow substantially in the future. Plastics have over the years become a material of choice for achieving economic and environmental balance between technological challenges and functional design.

Plastics in Building and Construction applications

  • Plastics for Decorative Laminates
  • Plastics for Drainage and Irrigation Pipes
  • Plastics for Drinking Water Pipes
  • Plastics for Electrics and Electronics
  • Plastics for Fittings
  • Plastics for Floor and Wall Coverings
  • Plastics for Insulation Materials
  • Plastics for Roofing
  • Plastics for Sewer Pipes and Ducts
  • Plastics for Waterproofing
  • Plastics for Window and Door Profiles

Automotive and Transport Division

Represents and promotes the interests of the Plastics Converters of the Automotive and Transport Industry towards their customers and the European Institutions, in cooperation with the horizontal functions of EuPC.

Automotive and Transport Division Working Groups

Regulatory and Communication

Plastics in Transportation

Thanks to their numerous advantages, plastics have been increasingly used in vehicles over the last 25 years, representing today an average of more than 100 kg per car which replace 200 to 300 kg of traditional materials.

Plastics in Vehicles applications

  • Plastics for Battery
  • Plastic Body Panels
  • Plastic Bumpers
  • Plastic Dashboard
  • Plastic Door Panels
  • Plastics for Fuel System
  • Plastic Interior and Plastic Exterior Trims
  • Plastic Lighting Systems
  • Plastic Seats, Seatbelts, Airbags
  • Plastic Undershields
  • Plastic Upholstery


Plastic Packaging - Plastic food containers Plastic Interior Trim

The start of a new Millennium is a good time for the plastics packaging industry to contemplate the current situation and the future. How will the packaging business look in the new Millennium? What changes can we expect?

In describing the market, developments in flexible and rigid packaging can be considered together, since the main trends apply to both. Because of the size of the industry and its large, extremely diversified market, it is possible here to give only an overview, outlining only the main developments.

  • The plastics packaging industry is, and will remain, a major economic factor in the future. Click here for more information.
  • The increasing globalisation of customers demands ever-greater co-operation and even company consolidation, particularly from small and medium-sized plastics processors.  Click here for more information.
  • Opportunities in the future will be open to those companies developing and manufacturing innovations, that offer their customers greater added value.  Click here for more information.
  • The plastics packaging sector is increasingly developing into a service industry with international service, just-in-time delivery and e-commerce. Outsourcing and full-service packages are gaining in significance as far as customers are concerned. Click here for more information




Food Packaging

Plastic Packaging

After the Second World War, the plastics industry underwent incredibly fast development. There is probably no comparable sector of industry (apart perhaps from computing) which has grown so rapidly. The result is that plastics, and plastics packaging, are now an essential part of our everyday life. The key to their success has been versatility. In packaging, plastics are used for many varied applications ranging from sterile storage of medical and pharmaceutical goods, to extending the shelf life of foodstuffs such as bread, meat and vegetables, and protecting sensitive technical products from damage. This means that plastics make a significant contribution to improving the quality of our life. At the same time they preserve valuable resources and help to save costs, as a result of their lower weight. Over time, plastics have become ever more sophisticated, lighter and more versatile due to innovative technologies and they have replaced traditional packaging such as glass and paper in many areas.

Plastics packaging came into widespread use with the introduction of polyethylene in the fifties. Before this, in addition to classical packaging materials such as paper, glass and wood, we used films of converted natural materials such as cellulose acetate and Cellophane transparent cellulose film.

The development of polystyrene, polypropylene, PVC, polyesters and polyethylene copolymers saw the start of the rapid increase in the use of plastics.

Plastics packaging is everywhere today. In spite of the size and economic importance of the industry, it is a fact that manufacturers of plastics packaging (predominantly medium-sized and small companies) are now open to a double dependency: on the one side the raw material suppliers dictate the prices of plastics, and on the other side there is massive downward pressure on prices by customers - particularly in the food industry.

In addition there is increasing competition, especially from Eastern Europe, where manufacturers have capacities for high quality extrusion and printing at a lower cost. We can also expect increasing competition from the Far East, although manufacturers there are yet not as advanced as in Europe, particularly in the fields of barrier materials and printing technology. An additional pressure is that the packaging market is characterised by growing overcapacity, which is placing even more pressure on prices. Nevertheless demand for packaging will continue to increase.

It is anticipated that growth rates over the last few years averaging 4-5 % per annum will remain at these levels, or increase. There also appears to be a slight trend in Europe towards flexible packaging systems.

As far as the individual plastic materials are concerned, very high growth rates are expected for PET, in the field of rigid packaging. The main application for PET is bottles for carbonated drinks and mineral water. In Europe and the USA, PET bottles are now also being tested for packaging beer.

Another application for PET which will gain in significance is food (such as preserves) that is hot-filled. Growth is also expected in the use of injection moulded polypropylene for large tubs and buckets that will gradually replace metal containers. PVC, which is under pressure from other materials in the food sectors, holds a strong position in `bubble` packaging of pharmaceutical tablets and in `display` packaging of products such as tools, ironmongery and hardware.

In terms of product areas, food packaging - which is the largest single product area in the whole packaging industry, - will be the major growth market for plastics packaging. The growth of the market is assisted by demographic developments in Europe, such as the steady increase in single and two-person households and the growing number of elderly people, which is fundamentally influencing consumer purchasing habits.

The market demand today is for practical, time-saving ready or deep-frozen meals in small microwaveable easy-to-open packaging or packaging that can be resealed. The trend towards these convenience products is enhanced by the fact that more and more people can now afford them. The flexibility of plastics, in protective properties and processability, has given them an excellent position for fulfilling the specific packaging requirements of this market.

Another new and growing special market is the packaging of pharmaceutical and medical products. Again, there is a strong and growing demand for these products in industrialised countries, where considerable consumer expenditure is available for healthcare. These products, such as medicines, prostheses and hygienic products place particularly high demands on packaging, for sterility, protection, appearance and security, which can well be met by plastics. This sector offers many exciting commercial opportunities for plastics. But here too, the plastics packaging industry is coming under pressure as governments around the world try to minimise their costs in the health sector.

Medical packaging requires high investment, high quality expertise and above all patience. Development of primary medical packaging takes at least three or four years before it can be tested in detail and licensed by the authorities. This is the only way to ensure that the demanding requirements on the integrity of the product can be satisfied in full. It also raises the price threshold at which companies can enter this sector, and ensures that only those with high technology, a long-term outlook - and strong financial resources - can play a role.  

The flexibility of plastics makes them particularly suitable in the field of medical packaging for moulded packaging with sealing systems for controlled dosage, child-proof packaging and tamper-proof/tamper-evident packages. There is also very large use of plastics in transport packaging - for moulded crates, shrink and stretch film pallet-wrapping - and moulded plastics pallets themselves. This all saves weight and fuel in shipping products between manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and is light and readily collectable at the store. The interest of the European packaging industry is therefore high in this market, and a number of significant companies are active. We anticipate also that the growth in the Far East will be in double figures.


Plastic Medical PackagingPlastic Food Packaging

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.


Plastics Processing IndustryPlastic Packaging Industry

Companies in the plastics packaging industry which use their expertise to develop user-friendly new products for the market will enjoy a strategic advantage over their rivals. If they also concentrate on market niches, their long-term commercial potential will be even better.

The plastics packaging industry in Western Europe is using its extensive expertise for opening new markets, both in the packaging sector and in similar areas. This means that skill in medical packaging or chemical applications can be used to develop products that go beyond simple packaging, for example, for the computing, aviation and automotive industries.

Packages can even be produced in shapes to relate to the product and assist marketing. A current pet food industry, pack, for example, is a plastic bag for cat food, shaped like a cat. Another is a chocolate pack shaped like a rabbit. Both have dramatic point-of-sale impact and have boosted sales of the product.

There is great scope also for technical innovation. Salad goods when unpackaged have only a very short life in the supermarket. But, when they are packed in a foil bag with a protective atmosphere, their shelf life can be increased by up to ten days. A film for meat packaging, for which a new barrier layer has been developed, now allows steaks to be kept in a special controlled atmosphere for over a month.

In addition to traditional packaging, the coffee industry is now demanding packaging without an aluminium layer. Packaging manufacturers have been asked to develop a film with the same barrier properties as films that contain aluminium, which preserve the aroma of coffee for over a year. Another example is beer in flexible plastic bottles sold in football stadiums. Cold-resistant films that remain flexible and impact-resistant in a deep freeze at a temperature of minus 30¡C also provide excellent opportunities. Such solutions to problems provide the basis for market-success. In development of new products, those companies offering ever-lighter and easier to recycle packaging will have a competitive edge. The reason is the growing demand from consumers and legislators for less waste, greater material savings and more environmental protection. At the same time, less material helps to preserve valuable resources and reduce transport costs. Consequently the industry is reducing packaging weight by using thinner and thinner films and thin-walled plastics containers.

There are many ways to create new applications for flexible and rigid packaging, and solve technical problems. Apart from new and modified polymers, one method is composite films, combining the benefits of individual layers to tailor-make the properties for the application. There are several processes:

Co-extrusion - three, five or even seven layers of different polymers are combined in a molten state and extruded by the cast or the blown film process;

Adhesive lamination - the adhesive, which may be solvent-based, water-based or solvent-free, is applied to the surface of one film;

Extrusion coating - molten polymer is cast-coated onto the surface of another film with a higher melting point;

Water- or solvent-based coating - the coating is applied to a film and the solvent or water is removed using heat;

Vacuum coating - the latest technology is to apply a very thin layer of an inorganic material such as aluminium to a film in a vacuum chamber.

Nano-composite technology is also being applied to the production of films with barrier properties. By incorporation of mineral particles in nano size (less than the wavelength of light), it is possible to create a form of ``labyrinth`` within the structure of the film, which physically retards the passage of molecules of (for example) gas. Already, nylon films have been commercialised with improved gas barrier properties by nano-scale additives, reducing the volume of material in the package and also simplifying recycling.

Barrier properties in other package forms are achieved by co-injection and co-extrusion of blow mouldings. To improve the gas barrier of PET bottles for the vast beer packaging market, coatings of PVDC have been used, but the latest developments use plasma technology to deposit a barrier inside the bottle, integrated with the bottle production line.

Protecting the environment is also becoming increasingly established for printing the films - in addition to solvent-based printing inks, water-based ones are now becoming more common.

Packaging - A ``Service`` Industry

If a packaging manufacturer offers complete solutions, the customer can transfer entire responsibility for the production process to the supplier. This outsourcing opportunity is increasingly used by customers.

It also includes innovative advice on packaging problems and reliable, fast deliveries, up to ``Just-In-Time`` supply. The packaging industry is looking to cooperate more closely with suppliers of raw materials and machinery.

The packaging industry, raw material suppliers and machinery manufacturers are already cooperating globally in Europe, USA and in Japan. Fast methods of communication by e-mail and computerised design ensure that this cooperation is even more effective.

For example, the food industry needs re-sealable peelable packaging allowing products such as vegetables and meat to be removed, resealed and removed again later.

Laminates are another example of inter-sector cooperation, and here the packaging industry is working with manufacturers of adhesives and machinery to develop eco-friendly solvent-free laminates with a shorter curing time.

In other sectors, the potential of PET for high-quality clear rigid containers is still only at its beginnings: wide-mouth, hot-fill, high barrier solutions are moving from laboratories to production lines.

The 20th Century has correctly been described as the Century of Plastics.


Flexible PackagingRigid Packaging
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