Central Europe also continues to show positive growth, even if some of the smaller countries remain vulnerable to external shocks. Poland is the only country in Europe which has not technically gone into recession since 2007. Although polymer demand growth has weakened, it is still managing to show some positive trends for appliance manufacturing and consumer packaging, even though automotive production in 2012 contracted substantially. However, automotive production has helped to sustain demand in other Central and East European countries, particularly Slovakia and to a lesser extent, Hungary.
On an application level packaging demand for polymers remained steady through 2012, accounting as it does for nearly half of all polymer processed in Europe but trends in downgauging, lightweighting and increased use of recyclate impacted on the overall demand for virgin resins. However, opportunities still exist in material substitution and new product development, e.g. PET bottles for the packaging of alcoholic beverages replacing glass bottles; barrier sheet and multilayer rigid and flexible constructions replacing glass and tin cans; plastic one piece closures replacing two-piece closures and metal tops.
While markets are expected to return to growth next year, AMI acknowledges that the effects will be patchy and there will continue to be winners and losers across the European plastics industry. The countries of Southern Europe will continue to seeing shrinking demand as their economies structurally readjust, while Germany and northern European markets (Benelux, UK, Nordic markets) are considered to be more economically sound, which should help to drive growth at least in line with GDP. Central European countries are also still expected to show good growth, driven by ongoing investments in car production and electrical goods manufacturing although the success of their plastics industry will be dependent on growth continuing in the West. However, volume growth will continue to be offset by trends in lightweighting and downgauging meaning that polymer demand growth is unlikely to advance beyond GDP growth rates. As a result it is likely to be 2020 or beyond before the industry see demand back at its 2007 level again.
Plastics industry in Europe to pick up from 2014