Plastics industry paving the way for a sustainable economic growth roadmap

With more than 200 participants gathering in Wiesbaden, Germany, this year’s summit of the European plastics industry PolyTalk was a major success. Under the topic "Plastics – An Intriguing Love Story?” the two-day conference brought together representatives from industry, politics, science, media and the youth.

The highlight of the summit was a highly controversial panel debate on environmental and health concerns related to plastics and the use of the precautionary principle. High-level panellists Dr Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Elke Anklam Director of the Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, and Axel Singhofen, Policy Adviser on Health and Environment Policy to the Greens in the European Parliament, brought in their views of the political and scientific worlds. Dr Martin Brudermüller, Vice Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, BASF SE, represented the industry’s perspective while Susan Freinkel, journalist and author of the best-seller "Plastic, A Toxic Love Story” took the stand of the critical consumer.

Patrick Thomas, President of PlasticsEurope and CEO, Bayer MaterialScience, concluded: "On the one hand, we as an industry have to keep doing what we have always had a duty to do – ensuring that our material is used in a way that does not pose a risk to human health and that products that go out on the market are safe. This is not just about complying with regulation, but going beyond it. And it can also mean reviewing existing evidence when new testing methods become available. On the other hand, if people still have concerns we can’t just dismiss these, we need to get better at listening and understanding where they are coming from”.

In his keynote speech, Dr Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, stated: "Yes, plastic has its problems. But it is also versatile, light and has a nearly unlimited attribution of specific properties through physical and chemical composition. So I believe that as we move away from a throw-away society, and towards a more circular economy, plastic has a future. It can be part of the solution, not just part of the problem.”

When discussing the future for the industry in Europe Sir Jonathon Porritt, former Sustainability Adviser to Tony Blair and founder of the Forum for the Future, brought in the sustainability expert view and pointed at the plastics industry as "a source of huge sustainability inputs”.

Another discussion panel was dedicated to the future of the young generation in Europe. Five winners of the PlasticsEurope Youth Parliament Debate Finals from Belgium, Turkey, Bulgaria and Germany challenged the industry, represented by Patrick Thomas and Dr Wilfried Haensel, Executive Director of PlasticsEurope, on how far it can and must contribute to a better education, preparing young people for the needs of tomorrow’s professional environment in Europe.

More information including videos and a picture gallery will be available on

Did you know ?
  • The world is spending 16 billion one-way plastics syringes per year.