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Consumption by End-Use Sector

Packaging was still the largest consumer of plastics in 2003, accounting for 14 764 000 tonnes, or 37.2 per cent of all plastics consumed. Packaging saw a 1.3 per cent growth in consumption rates between 2002 and 2003 despite the economic downturn. This is because plastics remain the material of choice for packaging, increasingly substituting other more traditional materials because they are lightweight, flexible and easy to process. Continuing technological development by the plastics industry means todays broad family of plastics continue to do more with less, helping to save valuable resources. In fact, although over 50 per cent of all Europes goods are packaged in plastics, by weight these plastics account for only 17 per cent of all packaging.

Building & Construction
The building and construction (B&C) industry uses plastics for a range of applications from insulation to piping, window frames to interior design. It is plastics durability, strength, resistance to corrosion, low maintenance and aesthetically pleasing finish that ensures their continued popularity in the sector. This is reflected in the data showing that, despite the economic downturn, B&C consumed 7 350 000 tonnes of plastics in 2003 and accounted for 18.5 per cent of total plastics consumption in Western Europe, making it the third largest user after the packaging and domestic sectors. The relatively low, two per cent, industry growth in plastics consumption between 2002 and 2003 is indicative of the negative impact of the broader economic recession and reduced house building.

Electrical & Electronic
Despite the global economic downturn electrical and electronic (E&E) plastics consumption rose 3.4 per cent to 3 360 000 tonnes in 2003, compared to 3 250 000 tonnes in 2002. This confirms plastics as an indispensable material for the E&E sector. It is a fact that many of todays new technical developments capitalise on the latest types of new generation plastics as a result, devices are becoming smaller and lighter. This means that while the amount of E&E applications continues to increase, the weight of plastics used in each unit, as in packaging, decreases. This is a fine example of plastics doing more with less resources.

The demands of the automotive industry are a challenge for todays designers. The solution to balancing high performance, competitive pricing, style and reliability with comfort, safety, fuel efficiency and minimal environmental impact, often lies in a new generation of lightweight plastics. This is reflected in the volume of plastics being used in the automotive sector. The automotive sector defied the stagnant economic climate and saw relatively high growth rates between 2002 and 2003 5.7 per cent. The volume of plastics consumed by the automotive sector reached 3 170 000 tonnes, or eight per cent of total plastics applications in 2003. Plastics are in the vanguard of new automotive innovation, with designs such as Daimler Benzs Smart car and the development of lightweight fuel cells among the examples of the lightweight material playing an essential role in the future of the automotive sector and energy efficiency. In fact, it is estimated that plastics lightweight contributes to a 10 per cent per year reduction in passenger car fuel consumption across Europe.

Agricultural plastics account for 1.9 per cent, 744 000 tonnes, of the total plastics consumed in Europe in 2003. Despite there being no growth in this sector between 2002 and 2003, they continue to play a pivotal role. Plastics-based agricultural irrigation and drainage systems provide effective solutions for crop growing. For example, in arid regions, plastics piping and drainage systems can cut irrigation costs by one to two thirds while as much as doubling crop yield.



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