The UK Plastics industry is crucial to the UK’s economic success. Its products support many other sectors, including car production, healthcare, construction and packaging – to name but a few. Our annual sales turnover is £23.5 billion and we are one of the UK’s biggest industrial employers, with a workforce of 166,000.
Plastics will be the material of the 21st century. Their light weight brings energy savings and reduces pollution in transport applications. Their excellent insulation properties provide energy efficiencies in buildings. As the global population rises, plastics packaging will prevent food wastage through its durability, effective barriers and tight seals.
The British Plastics Federation (BPF), which represents the entire sweep of the industry including raw material supply, machinery and equipment suppliers, plastic processors and recyclers, is the oldest plastics trade federation in the world and the only one to represent all aspects of the industry under one umbrella — a true one-stop-shop for plastics. This provides the UK plastics industry with a great competitive advantage. We have an extensive global reach and our website is one of the most authoritative platforms for plastics in the English language (visit: www.bpf.co.uk). We can source market intelligence from all corners of the globe and create real economies of scale.
The good news is that the UK is a global leader in all these areas – and we plan to consolidate this position. The British Plastics Federation has launched a strategy, which maps out the critical requirements to keep the UK a key global player. We have set ourselves a progressive environmental agenda, building on recycling achievements, embarked on an education and skills initiative and pointed to the future importance of shale gas as a competitive source of raw materials. We will also focus on innovation in energy-efficient products and develop our manufacturing efficiency by exploring the possibilities of Industry 4.0.
In the light of Brexit it is imperative that the Government recognises the importance of the UK plastics industry to the entire manufacturing and distributive sectors and is correspondingly supportive.
We are players in an international industry. We import over 50% of our raw materials and most of our processing equipment. A significant degree of UK industry is foreign owned – as are our customers. Full access to the European single market is therefore crucial for our competitiveness.
We are the third largest manufacturing sector in terms of employment. Over 18,000 of our employees are from other EU Member States. We need assurance that their working rights will be undiminished and that we will have full access to the manpower we require to develop the industry.
There will inevitably be a focus on overseas business development. We need the full support of the UK Government export programmes, particularly aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises.
The UK plastics industry should certainly be on MPs’ radar screens as they are likely to have one or more plastics companies in their constituencies. These local companies may contact MPs to discuss these points – so please be mindful of all that the plastics industry brings to the UK and help us remain a key player on the international stage.