K 2019, the most important trade fair for plastic industry, held in Düsseldorf from 16 to 23 October 2019, gathers every three years plastic industry professionals and specialists from all around the world.
This year, more than 3,000 exhibitors, several shows and forums attracted over 224,000 visitors from 168 countries. Experts shared their ideas, learned about new processes and materials and made business to improve their companies.
Speaking of decision-makers, two-thirds of the attendees were directors or senior officers, most of them with investment projects in mind. Their aim was to expand their businesses: extruders and extrusion lines, injection molding machines as well as machinery and equipment for reclamation and recycling were the most requested items.
K Düsseldorf Fair Main Exhibitions
Here it’s a selection of the most relevant content at the K 2019 Special Shows:
Opening of the Special Show with Werner Matthias Dornscheidt, President and CEO of Messe Düsseldorf; Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the Exhibitor Advisory Board at K 2019 and Dr. Michael Zobel, Chairman of PlasticsEurope Deutschland.
Keynote by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste delivered by Dr. Markus Steilemann, CEO Covestro AG.
Roundtable Discussion – Plastics for Sustainable Development, featuring representatives from the Austrian Federal Agency for Environment and the European Environmental Agency (EEA).
Series of Lectures on the Voluntary Commitment by Plastics Europe presented by the sustainability initiatives of the European plastics value chain, featuring representatives from Ceflex, Polyolefin Circular Economy Platform (PCEP), petcore Europe, PlastiCircle Europe, Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS) and VinylPlus.
Keynote by the World Plastics Council on global marine litter delivered by Mark Nikolich, CEO Braskem America. 
As the content shows, concerns about circular economy, wasted materials, recycling processes and social responsibility were the main subjects of reflection in the event. Speakers spread proposals to align the plastic industry with the needs of a new era, focusing on new materials and processes,as well as sustainability ideas.
K Fair innovations
A humanoid robot was built during K 2019 serving as an example of the time to come for additive and plastic manufacturing. Young researchers from FabLab Lübeck e.V. were responsible for this insight into the future.
In addition to plastic in robotics, this year the innovative power of the materials and the industry in terms of resource-saving processes, digitalization, functionality, renewable energies, circularity, and sustainability was center stage.
Some expositors amazed the public with their innovations in different areas, for example, 3D printed shoes made entirely of plastic, plastic holographic machines, new ways of packaging, new materials for manufacturing and even robots playing tennis or making hot and tasty coffee.
K Düsseldorf 2019 and Responsible Handling of Plastics
Social responsibility and sustainability were the main concerns at the forums. Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the Exhibitor Advisory Board at K 2019, shared his opinion about the topic:
Never before has the industry addressed an issue so unanimously and worked on solutions so consistently as is the case now in the fields of environmental compatibility, saving resources and avoiding waste. There is a spirit of new departures prevailing in the industry and current dynamics are overwhelming.
It became clear that global demand for innovative machinery and raw materials is particularly high right now, despite the current tensions in world trade or the business climate in some consumer sectors. 
Talking about the tensions in world trade, Oliver Möllenstädt, Executive Director of the German Association of Plastics Converters (GKV), previously stated that the solid growth across much of the industry “must not hide the fact that the plastics industry faces major challenges. The debate about plastics in the environment, which is sometimes very emotional in the media and the public, has a massive impact on plastics processing companies.” 
Martin Wiesweg, director of chemicals (PS, EPS, and PET) at IHS Markit, said the plastics industry in Europe “is facing a reckoning,”. He added: “At the heart of this discord is the huge problem of plastic waste. With increasing intensity and rapidity, consumers and authorities in Europe are uniting against plastics by bringing sweeping measures to curb its use and strictly implement a waste hierarchy”.
These main problems were the reason for K 2019 to gather experts and decision-makers to discuss the possible solutions for the market, circular economy being one of them.
Circular Economy in K 2019
Many renowned speakers from the industry took part in The VDMA Circular Economy Forum at K 2019, organized by The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) from Germany.
The concept circular economy refers to a better cycle in all plastic processes, improving waste handling, recycling methods and money saving along with ecological benefits. Some of the presenters were: Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General of DG Environment at the European Commission; Thomas Kyriakis, board member at Schwarz Zentrale Dienste KG; Dietmar Böhm, Managing Director responsible for the operative business of PreZero AG; and Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the Advisory Board of K 2019.
The participants discussed the challenge of circular economy for the industry, the recycling processes, their available and acceptance, a better way of packaging products, and the handling of plastic waste.
Avoiding plastic waste in the environment
Plastic waste was one of the most recurrent environmental concerns. This topic is very important because it means an opportunity to save money for companies since the material could be reused and the manufacturing could produce less waste. Besides, social responsibility attracts more clients and translates as less legal problems.
At K 2019, expositors showed possible solutions to reduce plastic waste. One of them is the production of new plastic materials, easier to handle, to reuse and to recycle. Another solution is to avoid plastic packaging or packaging at all. Beyond plastic waste, renewable energy, nature conservation, and digital processes are other options to help the environment and save resources.
Bioplastics (plastic materials produced from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats and oils) have become popular in the last years. European Bioplastics (in cooperation with the Nova-Institute) believes their use will grow to 27 % by 2023 mainly in Europe; this would help to reduce plastic waste in the environment.
Chemical Recycling Europe (CRE) offers another way to solve the problem: “The fast development of chemical recycling technologies that can provide a solution to recycle hard-to-recycle plastic waste is outpacing the regulation and policy around it,” CRE claims. “Together with our customers and partners, we developed and manufactured the first pilot products based on chemically recycled plastic waste”.
Trade visitors stats
Surveys on trade visitors at K 2019 indicated a significant growth in the interest of plastic industry. Here are some facts:
42% of visitors came overseas from diverse countries, like Angola, Burkina-Faso, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mongolia, Myanmar, French Polynesia or Tajikistan.
Visitors from Japan and China increased their participation, but as usual, India was the Asian country with more visitors. More than 40,000 attendees came from South, East, and Central Asia.
The number of American professionals increased by 7% with 20,000 participants; people from Brazil were much more numerous than other years.
As every year, the neighboring country Italy dominated the European attendance with over 10,000 visitors, followed by the Netherlands (approx. 9,000), Turkey (over 7,500) France (over 6,700), Belgium (over 6,300), Spain (over 5,100) and Russia (about 5,000).
One-third of the attendees focused their attention on machinery and equipment manufacturing, a segment with 1,975 participants. 52% of visitors said they were primarily interested in raw materials and auxiliaries; for 28% of visitors, semi-finished products and technical plastics and rubber parts were the major reason for coming.
K 2019 showed the compromise of the plastics industry with the environment, social responsibility, and necessities of the new era. It revealed the challenges of the industry and possible ways to face them. The future of plastics was brought up with robotic applications, new materials and different ways to consume and produce. Düsseldorf Fair proved the worldwide interest in investing, expanding and innovating the whole plastic industry.
The next K Fair will be held from 19 to 26 October 2022 in Düsseldorf. In three years we will witness the results and achievements of all the proposals, ideas and business deals that came from the Fair visitors and participants this year.
Martin’s Plastics was present and deeply involved at K 2019, learning from experts, understanding the main problems in the industry and making business to have the best services and processes for our clients. If you have doubts or concerns about plastic manufacturing, or about your project, we can help you with the most recent information and technologies.