How plastics help to face the world's big challenges

How plastics help to face the world's big challenges

Plastics play a central role in our lives

The development and use of plastics is a success story in the industry with constant growth year after year, and TC 61 has nicely contributed to the business expansion. Plastics production in 1950 represented 1,5 million tons. It was also about that time that TC 61 was created, in 1947, with the first meeting of TC 61 taking place in 1951. It was a long time ago, and today the worldwide production represents more than 200 times the production volume of 1950. The volume has basically doubled over just the last 15 or 16 years…

TC 61 contributed to the business expansion with the development of International Standards for improved quality, safety or compatibility of products. With constant support of the industry and thanks to the hard work of dedicated experts, the standardization activity results in a growing number of International Standards. One of the challenges is definitely to ensure that experts from all over the world can contribute to the standardization work, i.e. people from developing and emerging countries, but also people from industrialized countries who have long years’ experience in the field.

Besides these very positive signs and positive contribution of TC 61 to the growth of plastics, some difficulties also have to be addressed.

As a matter of fact, the difficult economic context had a negative impact on the standardization activity, and it is observed that the participation in the standardization work is no longer increasing as much as it used to increase in the past. Very often, companies are reluctant to send experts to the TC 61 annual meetings, as the expenses are seen as immediate potential savings.

Another challenge is linked to the difficulty of TC 61 to react fast enough to important subjects like for instance pollution, plastic waste, recycling, biobased sources for raw materials for plastics etc.

But members of TC 61 try hard to catch up and are working on the possibility to create a new sub-committee looking specifically into these important matters.

More generally of course, the goal of TC 61 is to contribute to solve global issues the world is facing, or will face in coming years. This means contribution at the level of standardization in the field of plastics, to the big challenges. Big challenges, like for instance

  • developing e-mobility, transportation and communication in general with specific light-weight plastics materials,
  • health, with the development of specific plastics parts replacing bones in a human body, design of orthopedic devices, replacing a blocked artery by a small plastic pipe, or
  • in relation to climate change, to develop and produce plastics with better properties to improve the insulation and the energy efficiency of buildings, etc.

It is also expected to see a growing use of plastics in the agriculture in order to help farmers to increase their production, to improve the food quality and to reduce the ecological footprint of their activity. Plastics do play a role in agriculture.

There are today about 7 billions people in the world, there will be 8,5 billions in 2030 (which means basically tomorrow), nearly 10 billions in 2050 and nearly 12 billions at the end of the century. An efficient agriculture will definitely be needed  to feed the population. And plastics will continue to play an important role.

These are examples of the importance of plastics in transportation, health, agriculture, climate change etc. and are only elements of a non-exhaustive list.

Plastics play a central role in our lives. The success story of plastics will still continue, but maybe in a slightly different way with the aspects related to renewables and biobased plastics definitely becoming more and more important in the coming years.

Find out more information on the plastics industry here, courtesy of PlasticsEurope.


Text adapted from information provided by Hubert Simon – Chairman of TC 61, Plastics.