Hoger Krahmer MEP (left), with EuCIA president Volker Fritz (right).
Hoger Krahmer MEP (left), with EuCIA president Volker Fritz (right).

First of all, let me highlight the role of the Environment committee of the European Parliament. In the past years, this committee has been the one where the most regulations were adopted in the European Parliament. From a realistic point of view, I would say that EU politics suffer exactly from the problem of an overflow of regulations and directives. I guess that massive regulation is something which is well-meant, but in the end it turns out into a massive bureaucratic burden for a number of companies or consumers instead of resulting into a better protection of the environment. Additionally, the more administrative duties and burden European legislation produces, the less innovation friendly it is.

Regulation means standardising. But innovation is one of the strongest engines for companies, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Strong regulation hinders innovation. Very often EU-legislation does not consider the diversity in companies operating in different sectors of the market. When EU politics regulates more and more or creates more and more limits, thresholds or other guidelines and specifications, it neglects the realities of entrepreneurship, especially among smaller companies. If the complexity of regulations and directives increases, it will become harder for SMEs to comply.

Environmental politics in the European Parliament have for a long time been marked by distrust and scepticism towards the economic actors and 'anti-industrial reflexes' in the past. I am deeply convinced that the application of technologies should be determined by competition and not by political parameters. In this respect, there is a great need to convince a number of political decision makers that politics are not the better market experts than market actors.

In the past years, Europe tried to establish standards by political force hoping that they will become accepted globally. The result was the opposite. Let’s take climate policies as an example: it shows that the concept doesn’t work out. In the international climate conferences Europe lost its importance. Europe can only set technological standards by proving their efficiency in economic and industrial practice. For this, we need the ability to accept an open competition.

For composites, there are a number of issues we discuss in the Parliament as well. In environmental politics, we often debate about substances. Are they hazardous? Do they harm our health? A number of good-minded people every now and then try to ban substances which are pretended to be hazardous for instance. Politics is always on the search for the 'perfect' substance. But there is no perfect substance. Such a substance would be like a Swiss army knife (which can do everything). It would have to be lightweight, non-toxic, recyclable, cheap, it should not waste resources and it should fulfill the same conditions as the conventional substance. Honestly, this sounds rather like an illusion than reality.

Nowadays, everyone is speaking of 'sustainability.' But what exactly does sustainability mean? Isn’t it just an empty phrase? Of course, there are many definitions existing. To me it seems that it a recent ‘trend’ to bear the label of sustainability. But does in fact this label equate to a ‘green’ image everyone wants to bear? I also get the impression that everyone is defining sustainability in his own way – the way which fits best to the business model. An efficient economic activity which is also saving resources must be in the nature of every entrepreneur or consumer. Of course, every now and then incentives are necessary, but regulation and economic paternalism adopted as a means sustainability are often a handicap for companies.

Let me now briefly comment on a number of directives which might be of interest for you. The directives are not in the process of political decision making but in the implementation phase or already into force. I will highlight the Waste Framework Directive, the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive, and the End-of-lifecyle-vehicle-directive (ELV).

  1. The Waste Framework Directive
    In Europe we have different systems of waste treatment, re-use, recycling. But we clearly have to ask: Are we really able to allow an internal market for waste management? Many national interests are opposing that goal.
  2. IPPC – Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control
    The objective of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive is to prevent and control emissions to air, water and soil from industrial installations across the European Union by promoting the use of Best Available Techniques. However, a recast of the IPPC directive was needed to bring an end to the different implementation and enforcement of the former legislation in the Member States. Disparities in the transposition puts environmental protection at risk and results in distortion of competition. This recast also has to pass the practical test in industrial reality. In turn, first signs from the member states which had not implemented IPPC appropriately yet signal that we are on a good way.
  3. End-of-Lifecyle Vehicle (ELV) Directive
    This directive has successfully reached its aim. In Europe, almost all heavy metals from cars have vanished. We mainly produce cars which are nearly 100 % recyclable, re-usable or able to be recovered. There is no need to intensify or revise this directive. An intensification would not produce any added value.

When we are talking of composites in cars, the challenge is to comply with the factors of being lightweight in order to safe fuel. The substance must be secure in order to guarantee passenger’s security. And the question of how to treat the composites in an environmental-friendly way must be solved. Therefore I am very looking forward to hear from your presentations what solutions composites industry provides us with.

Environmental politics faces the challenge to balance environmental-friendly, economic and social needs. This challenge results in various demands towards substances, technologies and products.

Environment-friendly substances, technologies or products do not per se fulfill the demand of being affordable. Nor are all answers to political questions on those in practice ready for the market. I recommend that the hunt for the better technologies should be left to the market.

I want to thank you a lot for your attention and hope we will have fruitful discussions today during the conference. I hope that with my short presentation I was able to give you an insight to the necessity and importance of accompanying the political process and also of being present when political decisions are made here in Brussels. ♦

 


EuCIA's Information Day on Competitive Composites: Sustainability & Recycling Challenges took place on 4 May at the European Parliament in Brussels. Members of EuCIA can obtain the presentations free of charge; they are available to purchase for non-members.

Read a report on the EuCIA Information Day here.