Polymer is manufactured by the plastic industry; it has an impressive range of uses; both in the EU and across the globe. It has become one of the most important and widely used products in the modern world. In fact, you will often not even be aware that you are using something produced by the EU polymer industry.
What is Polymer?
The word ‘polymer’ can be split into two. The ‘mer’ part simply refers to a unit; specifically something like carbon and hydrogen. The ‘poly’ part is a reference to the fact that these units are multiplied. In essence, a polymer is simply many chemical units joined together; much like a paper chain!
Polymers appear naturally but, when manufactured fall into two specific categories:
1. Thermoset Polymers
This type of polymer can be used to create plastic which retains its shape. Even if you reheat it the plastic thermoset polymer will not melt!
2. Thermoplastic Polymers
In contrast the thermoplastic polymer will melt when heated. This is the polymer of choice for the EU polymer industry as, once used, the plastic can be melted down and reshaped. This is a practical way of recycling the same plastic for multiple uses without damaging its structure.
The EU Polymer Industry
You may be surprised to know that plastic has played an important part in EU industry for over 150 years! The first plastic injection molding machine is believed to be created by the Hyatt brothers in 1872. Plastics were used before this but this open the door to mass production and plastic as part of everyday life.
Polymer is a more recent discovery but the ability to join different molecules together to create a chain has allowed the production of some impressive engineering feats. This includes the bullet proof vest; which may be taken for granted today. However, you may not realize that scientists have now discovered a new polymer based material which cannot only stop a 9mm bullet; it can repair the hole as well!
The EU polymer business has grown year upon year; surveys suggest the following figures:
- In excess of 1.45 million people employed by the plastic industry in Europe
- More than 60,000 European companies in this sector.
- Turnover in Europe alone exceeds 320 billion Euros
- It is one of the top 5 sectors for innovation
- For every new job in Polymer manufacturing there are three more created relating to the plastics industry!
- The industry in Europe contributes approximately 26 billion Euros to the different European governments!
There is no doubt that the EU polymer industry is a fundamental part of the economic welfare of Europe!
The beauty of the plastic polymer is that it can be melted and recreated. This makes it an attractive and viable option for the future as well as helping to create even more jobs and opportunities.
Polymers have become integral to modern life; this is just a few of their uses:
- Plastic blood – when blood is needed extremely quickly
- Plastic solar cells
- Medical Aids which can be implanted into the body; to help with epilepsy and even Parkinson’s
- Insulation material
The list goes on, it is fair to say that the EU polymer industry is not just massive; it is present in virtually every activity you do!