Satisfying the plastic demand for the growing population with fossil resources will have an enormous impact on the environment. During the past 50 years the annual global production of plastic has increased dramatically from 1,5 to over 310 million tonnes. Currently Europe is the second largest producer of plastics, with an annual production of approximately 60 million tonnes. The European plastic industry consists of around 62,000 companies and 1,45 million employees and, including manufacturers and converters, it is expected to have an annual turnover of €350 billion.
To achieve a desirable sustainable future with low carbon dioxide emissions the plastic sector needs to decarbonise. The plastic industry is currently locked in to fossil feedstock and energy and the global plastic production accounts for 4-8% of the fossil oil use. The estimated use of carbon to satisfy the current plastic production in the European plastic sector corresponds to potential emissions of 160 Mt CO2. Furthermore, about 40 Mt of CO2 are emitted during the production process in steam crackers which deliver the platform products ethylene and propylene. Additional carbon dioxide emissions also originate from electricity and steam production which are needed to process platform products to final plastic. So there is an annual CO2 turnover of at least 200 Mt directly connected to the plastics sector. To reduce the emissions, the EU commission has set targets to increase plastic recycling and decrease the use of plastic bags. Incentives towards a sustainable plastic sector is also emerging from the production side, and plastics made from renewable resources such as biomass, algae and carbon dioxide are expected to be a sustainable solution to reducing the carbon footprint.