The future of European environmental policy: what’s the industry’s role?

The protection of the environment and economic growth are not enemies. On the contrary, they should go hand in hand, in Europe more than anywhere.

According to a comprehensive assessment published by the European Environment Agency on 16 March 2015, the state of Europe’s environment is closely linked to the broader economic and societal context. Protecting natural resources will have an important positive effect both on Europe’s growth and on its citizens’ quality of life.

As the Agency notes, “environmental policies are also creating economic opportunities and thereby contributing to the Europe 2020 Strategy, aimed at making the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by 2020.” This is particularly true as the European Commission discusses its new ‘Circular Economy Package’ at the highest political level.

Furthermore, the European industry’s commitment to shift to resource efficiency is worth mentioning. From the introduction to life-cycle thinking in the production, use and disposal of products to the investment in research and development to produce more durable materials, trends are positive.

At the same time, even the latest economic recession has created opportunities. In order to maintain their global competitive advantage, European firms have invested in developing the highest quality products, in order to ensure that they remain their customers’ first choice. All in all, over the past years, policy-makers’ and economic actors’ objectives have converged for the benefit of Europeans and the environment.

The polyurethanes industry supports European competitiveness and environmental ambitions

With close to 240,000 companies directly and indirectly depending on Polyurethanes in Europe, the polyurethanes industry is a strong supporter of Europe’s environmental policy ambitions as they will ultimately contribute to our continent’s future industrial competitive advantage.

From the producers of polyurethane’s compounds, diisocyanates and polyols, to manufacturers of products using polyurethane in their end product it has become obvious that committing to sustainability also means committing to long-term economic growth. This is particularly true for sectors investing in innovative materials such as the insulation sector.

In addressing buildings’ energy efficiency, through refurbishment, European policy-makers can “hit two birds with one stone.”

Investing in polyurethanes solutions will not only contribute to supporting European industry, SMEs for the greatest part, but will also lower emissions and decrease waste. Why is that? Polyurethanes use less than 0.1% of oil consumed worldwide and can save up to 100 times more. All in all, polyurethanes save 14.5 million tonnes of CO2 in Europe each year in building insulation and lightweight automotive components alone – the equivalent of almost 2 millions’ homes electricity use for one year.

When approximately 40% of fossil fuels are used to heat and to cool buildings of all types, improved insulation is therefore one of the most cost effective ways to lower energy consumption, cut carbon dioxide emissions, reduce the associated threat of global warming and ultimately improve consumers’ spending. Also of note, European institutions and national government have noted that financial support will be provided to forward-looking companies, meaning sustainability will be the key to receiving the support to create new jobs.

In addition, polyurethanes are recoverable, and there is a wide range of possibilities for dealing with end-of-life polyurethanes –be it recycling or recovery – to ensure that polyurethanes are re-re-injected in the economic system while minimising the burden on the environment. That is particularly promising at a time when the European Environment Agency’s report notes that “despite recent progress in waste prevention and management, EU waste generation remains substantial, and performance relative to policy targets is mixed.”

Producing polyurethane, investing in Europe’s future… The future is not only about what we make out of it. It’s also what we make it from.

For more on the impact of polyurethane in preserving our planet’s resources or for any questions on what makes polyurethane materials sustainable do not hesitate to engage with us on Twitter!

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