Climate savior plastic!

A post by:     Sven Behrendt
Executive Board Member
Last updated: 2024-03-14

Climate protection is rightly one of the most important challenges we face worldwide. Many people see plastics as a problem. I see it differently and say: plastics are real climate savers! In this article, I explain what this means in concrete terms.

Plastics are seen as a problem

It is becoming increasingly clear how important it is to treat our planet's environment more carefully and at the same time use its resources more sparingly. 

Therefore, it is only logical that we are taking a closer look nowadays and questioning previous procedures, technologies and materials.  

Plastics in particular are increasingly coming under the spotlight - partly with good reason.  

This is because plastics are mostly produced from fossil raw materials using a lot of energy. Some of them contain critical substances that pollute the environment and can endanger our health. And at the end of their life cycle, they often pollute the air, soil and water.  

Wouldn't it be better to avoid plastics wherever possible? No, on the contrary! 

The two challenges of climate protection

First of all, it is worth taking a very objective look at what climate protection is really about: the most important goal is to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in order to prevent the average temperature from rising any further. From an industrial perspective in particular, there are only two objectives:  

  1. Consume less energy and 
  2. Produce energy in a climate-neutral way.  

We can only reduce emissions to such an extent that the climate does not warm up any further if we achieve these goals. We therefore need to do exactly what brings us closer to solving this challenge. And this is precisely where plastics can make an important contribution.  

Why plastics are part of the solution

Let's put aside the critical aspects of plastics for a moment. I will come back to them in a moment. But this way we can better recognize the incredibly valuable and positive properties of plastics for climate protection. Here are a few examples.


Plastics are durable - that is the outstanding advantage for many applications. In the construction industry in particular, the decades-long use of plastic products, whether as windows, building elements or roofs, has proven its worth many times over. 

Furthermore, plastics can be recycled several times. One example of this is PVC, which can be recycled ten times. To express the associated potential for carbon capturing in figures: A window profile that is used for 40 years and recycled seven times has a life cycle of 280 years!

What does that mean? Durability saves massive amounts of energy and resources in the long term.  


Plastic is by far the most efficient material available to us - in more ways than one.  

Plastic articles are manufactured according to demand. This leads to a highly efficient use of materials and an application-oriented product design. As a result, material can be saved. 

At the same time, plastics also increase efficiency in other areas: for example, they prevent food and medicines from spoiling prematurely.  

Their low weight also reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions in transportation, both in the transport of consumer and industrial goods and in the mobility industry by making vehicles lighter and therefore more economical. 

This extends into our everyday lives. For example, a study by NABU 2022 found that thin plastic bags in supermarkets have a better environmental footprint than comparable paper bags. This is because they are eight times heavier than bags made of film - and the production of cellulose is very energy and water-intensive.

Insulation properties

The best energy is that which is not needed in the first place. With their excellent insulating properties, plastics help us to make massive energy savings in many areas. 

The building sector, for example, is a very big energy waster. Plastics can help here in many areas - for example with foamed plastics to effectively insulate the building envelope. 

But plastics are also used as effective insulating materials in industrial plants, in the chemical industry and in many other areas. 

Renewable energies

Plastics have become an integral part of climate-friendly energy generation.  

Plastics are light and stable, which is why they are used to make rotors for wind turbines, for example. Plastics are electrically insulating, which is why they are used on the back of solar collectors. Plastics with a variety of positive properties are used in batteries for electromobility.  

These examples show the importance of plastics in energy generation technologies. 

Solve problems instead of rejecting plastic!

What does this mean for climate protection? Many of the properties mentioned can only be realized with plastics - so they are indispensable. At the same time, they enable many of the achievements of our civilization that I, at least, would not want to do without.  

So the solution cannot be to ban plastics. Instead, we must finally solve the existing problems. I see three major fields of action here.  

1. Defossilization

In my opinion, the most important thing is the consistent defossilization of plastics. Or to put it simply: we need to move away from fossil raw materials as well as fossil energy in production.  

We are still at the beginning here, but important developments can already be seen today. One example is our bio@ products, for which we use tall oil, a by-product of the cellulose industry, as a raw material. We at RENOLIT are not the only ones working flat out to make plastics made from renewable raw materials suitable for mass production. 

At the same time, we are using more and more energy generated from renewable sources in production. Both factors should ensure that plastics no longer have a negative impact on climate change in the future.

2. Degradability & recycling

Avoiding emissions from plastics production and processing is one thing. But we must not ignore the other negative properties. The issue of waste takes center stage here. Anyone who has seen the polluted rivers in some parts of the world can no longer turn a blind eye to this. Something must be done here. In Germany, the proportion of plastic parts in water and soil is also increasing. 

That's why we need plastics that are biodegradable - in the case of plastic bags.  At the same time, we need to focus consistently on recycling and finally create a genuine circular economy, as with window profiles. 

In addition to pure product innovations, related technologies are therefore becoming increasingly important. We will solve questions such as how a Digital Product Passport (DPP) can be implemented across all sectors and what Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) really means in practice. 

3. Plastic without harmful substances

Paint without heavy metals - it works! Flexible film without plasticizers - possible! Tin-free stabilizers - there are alternatives! We all live more health-conscious lives today and view some things more critically. We do the same as a company and welcome the risk-based approach to production and subsequent use. Where necessary, we are constantly working on replacing substances with less harmful ones - because we have a responsibility. 

Pollutant-free plastics will be possible in many areas. Where this is not possible, we must minimize the risks through recycling and clear disposal guidelines.  

Handling plastics must change

We urgently need plastics for more climate protection. That is why constructive and reliable cooperation between politicians, industry and consumers is necessary. Sometimes we certainly need a "raised finger" to look at the focal points in detail with a magnifying glass. But not to dogmatically hammer away at them, but to work together and in step to find a solution. A solution that harnesses the advantages of plastic products and eliminates the disadvantages that are visible today and may emerge tomorrow.  

Conclusion: We need plastics for more climate protection

It is said that the inventor of the plastic bag was a Swede who saw the increasing use of paper shopping bags as a threat to the forest and its tree population. In this sense, and with the constant technological progress, I see plastic as a material that helps the climate more than it harms it.