29 April 2010 - Energy savings from use of plastic enough to power 46 million cars

Study preview reveals eye-opening facts about plastics’ energy performance

The Denkstatt Study analyses for the first time the environmental impact of 173 plastic products throughout their entire life-cycles. MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola and PlasticsEurope – The European Association of Plastics Manufactures – presented the preview of these landmark scientific findings during a debate in the European Parliament in Brussels. The research, undertaken by Austrian sustainability consultancy Denkstatt, gives the clearest picture yet of the CO2 emissions of plastics versus alternative materials and their role in climate change.

Final results are currently being peer reviewed by respected life-cycle academics and will be released in full in June but meanwhile, the preview data released during this event already unveils that plastic saves 2.300 million GJ in energy per year. This equates to 50 million tonnes of crude oil – that is 194 very large oil tankers products. They equally prevent GHG emissions of 120 million tonnes per year.

The study, entitled "Plastics Contribution to Climate Protection’’ and funded by the European plastics industry, identifies plastics' share of citizens’ carbon footprint and provides a carbon lifecycle analysis of plastics compared to their alternatives in packaging, transportation, building and construction and eco-product enablement (e.g. solar panels, wind turbines).

Wilfried Haensel, PlasticsEurope Executive Director commented: "The Denkstatt Study challenges negative perceptions of plastics by highlighting the beneficial features of the material when viewed from a lifecycle perspective.” Mr Haensel concluded, "Just think – saving 120 million tonnes of GHG is already 38% of the EU15 Kyoto target on the reduction of GHG emissions.”

MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola commented: "This Study’s approach is very timely - the climate change phenomenon is so serious that we can’t afford shallow assumptions and populist bumper-sticker slogans.” MEP Korhola concluded, "We need facts and sound evidence on which to base our legislation.”

Initial results revealed that while the carbon footprint of an average EU 27+2 (Norway and Switzerland) consumer amounts to about 14 tonnes CO2 per capita, a mere 1.3% – or 170kg – stem from the use of plastic products.

The Denkstatt Study

  • The study included 173 plastic products across all plastic applications in Europe
  • 46 million tonnes of plastics were consumed in the EU 27+2 in 2007
  • Study examined energy used throughout the entire life cycle of the plastic products

Plastics and energy efficiency

  • Plastic products enable energy savings of 2.300 million GJ per year equating 50 million tonnes of crude oil – that is 194 very large oil tankers
  • Plastic products prevent GHG emissions of 120 million tonnes per year which equals the total CO2 emissions of Belgium (in 2000) or 38% of the EU15 Kyoto target on the reduction of GHG emissions
  • The carbon footprint of an average EU 27+2 consumer amounts to about 14 tonnes CO2 per capita, a mere 1.3% - or 170 kg – stem from plastic products
  • Substituting plastic products with alternative materials would increase energy 

More information available on www.theparliament.com/plastics and www.debatty.com/parliament/2010-04-28-plastics

PDF document of Press release

Press Contact:
PlasticsEurope AISBL
Chris Welton
Phone: +32 (0)2 676 7443

Editors' note:
PlasticsEurope is one of the leading European trade associations with centers in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris. We are networking with European and national plastics associations and have more than 100 member companies, producing over 90% of all polymers across the EU27 member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Croatia and Turkey.

The European plastics industry makes a significant contribution to the welfare in Europe by enabling innovation, creating quality of life to citizens and facilitating resource efficiency and climate protection. More than 1.6 million people are working in about 50.000 companies (mainly small and medium sized companies in the converting sector) to create a turnover in excess of 300 billion € per year.

The plastics industry includes polymer producers - represented by PlasticsEurope, converters - represented by EuPC and machine manufacturers - represented by EUROMAP. For further info see the web links: www.plasticseurope.org, www.plasticsconverters.eu, www.euromap.org