Lessons for Policy, Industry and Science
Edited by Martin Junginger, Wilfried van Sark and André Faaij
Martin Patel, Martin Weiss, Tristan Simon and Andrea Ramírez Ramírez 18.1 INTRODUCTION The chemical industry is a mature industry, with its beginnings dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Polymers, which represent one of the most important product categories of the chemical industry, have been produced in substantial quantities for more than 50 to 70 years. Polymers are considered newcomers among other bulk materials such as steel, cement or paper but they can be regarded as mature products when compared to the other products and technologies analysed in this book. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, plastics production alone accounted for more than 6 per cent (in terms of mass) of the total bulk materials production1 in Europe (Shen et al., 2009). The fact that plastics are in a comparatively early stage of their product life cycle explains the particularly high growth rates of plastics production worldwide. For example, plastics production grew by 4.6 per cent p.a. between 1971 and 2006 in the EU-27 countries, while the total production of all bulk materials increased by less than 1 per cent p.a. in the same period. The worldwide growth rate of plastics is even higher, amounting to nearly 6 per cent between 1971 and 2006. In 2006, approximately 250 million tonnes of plastics were produced worldwide (PlasticsEurope, 2007). Similar to plastics, total fertilizer production has grown rapidly in the last 50 years, with an average growth rate of approximately 3.6 per cent p.a. between...