Polycarbonate plastic is a lightweight, highly versatile, durable, heat and shatter resistant, formable
and transparent thermoplastic. It is the material of choice for a wide range of end-user applications
as diverse as DVDs, computers and home appliances, spectacles and optical lenses, reusable water
bottles, and medical devices or construction materials.
Throughout large parts of the EU’s manufacturing base, the properties of polycarbonate provide processors
and end-users with a platform for innovation. These properties allow them to develop new products and markets,
improve performance of existing products, meet new technical and environmental needs, enhance productivity and reduce costs.
Across the whole value chain polycarbonate generates extensive socio-economic gains for the European Union (EU). It creates
and supports jobs and wealth, safeguards the competitiveness of important EU-based industries and provides public benefits
that satisfy wide social concerns and needs.
Value chain: employment and societal
The polycarbonate value chain consists of
the polycarbonate manufacturers, converters/processors, manufacturers of
articles, wholesalers and retailers. It is a
major multiplier. Far more than 90% of
the socio-economic value added is generated in the processing, manufacturing and
trading sectors. Irrespective of whether they
host a national production site, most European
countries need polycarbonate as an essential
raw material for their processing and manufacturing
industries. In total, more than 535,000 jobs* in the EU depend,
either directly and indirectly, on the production and use of
polycarbonate. The total gross salary and wage cost of the
polycarbonate value chain was ca. € 17.5 billion in 2010,
resulting in over € 6 billion in labour taxes. On that basis,
in 2010, more than € 35 billion of value added in the EU
depended on polycarbonate technology.
Contribution to European competitiveness and
As a major enabling technology, polycarbonate production and
use contributes substantially to the strengthening of Europe’s
economy and growth. Polycarbonate underpins the competitiveness of major industrial sectors in Europe, such as the
medical devices, automotive, IT-hardware, electro/electronic
and building and construction sectors. The innovative power
and efficiency of polycarbonate allows Europe to hold top global
positions in these sectors.
Polycarbonate applications benefit the public through
increased safety, by reducing the risk of death, injury or illness.
They also reduce environmental impact by improving resource
efficiency, reducing energy consumption, and therefore,
limiting CO2 emissions – a key goal for the EU. Polycarbonate
provides increased personal choice and convenience for
In more than 80% of applications, polycarbonate is critical
to the performance of the component or material. This
applies to both the converting and manufacturing industry,
and also to the functional performance of the actual end
product. Such unique applications are found widely in the
building and construction and the automotive sectors. For
these industries, the low weight, virtual unbreakability and
glass-like transparency of polycarbonate make it unique for
its respective uses, such as in large free-formed transparent
roofs, or headlamps in cars.
For modern optical media, like DVDs, CDs and Blu-ray
disks, the combination of cost, quality and data storage
capabilities make polycarbonate the unique material for basic
modern digital electronic entertainment and computer-based
Applications in the medical devices sector are 100%
unique: Only polycarbonate provides the required safety
characteristics, combining biocompatibility, light weight,
contact safety, ease of sterilisation, transparency and virtual
unbreakability. For example, more than 700,000 people
suffer from chronic kidney failure. Their lives depend on
dialysis machines. Almost all renal dialysis machines use
polycarbonate technology. The same applies to open heart
surgery. Polycarbonate components in blood oxygenation
equipment are critical to the functionality of this advanced
technology. Without these devices, over 500,000 open heart
operations in Europe could not be performed each year.
Building and construction is one of the EU’s largest industry
sectors, employing over 147 million people and creating more
than € 512 billion of value added. 80% of polycarbonate use in
this sector is for unique applications, for example in improving
insulation and lighting. The combination of fire resistance,
light weight, durability, impact resistance and transparency
provide architects and users with tailored creative solutions.
This helps develop new structures, reduce costs, improve
energy efficiency and minimise the environmental impact of
Key role in innovative value added
The performance characteristics and uniqueness of
polycarbonate boosts European innovation competitiveness.
The EU is a world leader in the development and supply of
innovative medical devices. Over 50% of all renal dialysis
machines are produced in the EU. Overall production by the
medical devices industry in Europe supports 4.5 million direct
jobs and generates value added of € 24 billion.
In the European automotive industry, polycarbonate
technology is used in a wide range of structural, safety and
aesthetic applications. It continues to provide engineers with
the basis for innovation, such as in new glazing for weight
reduction and safety features. The automotive sector supports
10 million jobs and generates value added of € 36 billion.
In the Electrical and Electronics (E&E) sector, the flame
retardance, impact resistance and durability of polycarbonate
helps manufacturers meet the need for continuously
higher standards of appearance, sustainability
and safety. This also satisfies emerging
regulatory or eco-design standards.
Products include large flat screens
and monitors, consumer electronics
equipment and fuse boxes as well
as the large market of optical data
storage. Altogether, the European E&E
sector supports 26 million jobs and
generates value added of € 139 billion.
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