40 years and counting
1974: war in the Middle East, high energy prices, West Germany wins the World Cup. 2014: war in the Middle East, high energy prices, Germany wins the World Cup. History may repeat itself in world affairs and sport, but that’s not been true for the plastics industry in the forty years since European Plastics News was launched.
The industry has come on in leaps and bounds in the past four decades: in the development of high-performance materials, the multiple innovations in manufacturing technology and the penetration of many new market sectors. Plastics have helped improve the delivery of healthcare, answer problems of lightweighting in cars, contribute to more energy-efficient housing, and transport water and other vital amenities to communities.
These achievements are raised by the industry leaders we surveyed in this 40th anniversary issue (see p20-23). It has been a good opportunity to pause and acknowledge the benefits that plastics have brought.
Plastics also have vital roles in the mega-trends now emerging: a growing world population, climate change and environmental protection. The executives point to sustainability as being the biggest challenge for the industry. With the challenge comes an opportunity, and demand for solutions involving – for example, lightweight technologies and plastics from renewable resources – is only likely to increase. Many also foresee a growing amount of integration and interconnectivity – in the products and systems that plastics companies make, and also in the way companies work.
Looking back over forty years shows that development trends in plastics track societal changes, because of the wide application of plastics throughout human activity. Predictions may be risky, but it is safe to say plastics will continue to follow the contours of society as it takes shape in the 21st century.
To be best prepared for the challenges of this century, the plastics industry’s leaders recognise the need for vision – not just within their own companies but in the industry as a whole.
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