Thomas Franken, Messe Duesseldorf: In the future plastics will no longer be the problem but rather part of the solution

MachinesInterviewSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 3/2022 • 08.09.2022

Thomas Franken, Messe Duesseldorf: In the future plastics will no longer be the problem but rather part of the solution

Thomas Franken, Project Director Plastics & Rubber in Messe Duesseldorf, for South-East European Industrial Market


The world´s leading trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry K is back for its 70th jubilee. How will you celebrate it?

K in Duesseldorf will take place again in 2022 in accordance with its regular three-year cycle. And yes, it is true, it is celebrating its 70th birthday this year! In 1952, no one could have imagined that it would develop into the world´s leading trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. Before K 2022 even opens its doors, there is already an opportunity to get in the mood for the trade show´s anniversary. We are celebrating K with its own microsite, inviting you to delve into seven decades of K history and to smile and marvel at historical photos and stories. And if someone likes to share their own personal K story with us, anecdotes, encounters, funny or astonishing things, please feel free! This is possible any time via LinkedIn by using the hashtag #70YearsK. We are not yet revealing how the anniversary will be celebrated at the fair itself. But one thing is certain: we want to celebrate the plastics and rubber industry itself at K 2022!


Messe Duesseldorf has prepared to give the stage to hot live discussions, best practice exchanges and future strategies. What will be the keynote themes at K 2022?

K 2022 will focus on the three major guiding topics of the industry: Climate Protection, Circular Economy, Digitalization. The way these issues are consistently addressed at K impressively proves how committed the industry is to assuming responsibility and how plastics will in future no longer be the problem but rather part of the solution. Never in the history of plastics has the industry worked so consistently and cohesively towards joint, global solutions. K 2022 provides the only global platform for this exchange to network with each other and to address forward-looking topics and specifically tackle projects in face-to-face exchange.

The K 2022 specials will focus on the three hot topics as well. First and foremost: the official special show with the title "Plastics Shape the Future" in Hall 6. This presentation is jointly organized by Plastics Europe Germany and Messe Duesseldorf. In panel discussions and lectures, industry experts will show how plastics can shape a sustainable future, which developments are already emerging today and which visions have a chance of being realized tomorrow. The "Science Campus" of K 2022 stands for the dialogue between the scientific community and business. Here exhibitors and visitors have the opportunity to get a condensed overview of scientific activities and findings in the plastics and rubber industry and exchange experiences between universities and companies. The "Circular Economy Forum" will be in the outdoor space between Halls 10 and 16 at K 2022. There, 13 member companies of the VDMA (German Engineering Federation) will make the circular economy tangible and showcase this topic in its entirety.


What innovation and breakthrough must-see solutions are expected in the spotlight at K 2022 exhibition halls?

Of course, we can´t say anything about individual innovations yet, because the innovations for K are still the best-kept secrets of our exhibitors at the moment. They are using K as a premiere platform and will only show off at the fair itself. But of course, all of them focus on innovations that contribute to the three hot topics.

For example "Design for recycling" will surely be reflected in the exhibitors´ new solutions and products. It is alarming to see that many plastic products still cannot be recycled meaningfully, because material mixtures, a variety of plastic materials and additives used prevent re-use in a circular fashion. The solution for this problem is known: Design for recycling. To ensure efficient circular management plastic products have to already be "engineered" for re-use during the design process and the companies in the sector are working at full speed on this.

New in 2022 is the "Start-up Zone". For the first time, K offers newcomers specializing in the development of innovative products and solutions for plastics and rubber their own presentation area in Hall 8b. I am very excited about this and expect very creative, forward-looking ideas and solutions from the 11 participating start-up companies.


What challenges does industrial transition pose to plastics and rubber industry and what role does K 2022 play in facilitating the process?

The plastics industry is at a crucial turning point and K 2022 will showcase that it is undergoing a transformation process. The plastics industry is aware of its current leading role also in societal terms and the associated responsibility. It is no longer just talking about the future, but will, can and must act now. New plastic products must be created that meet the requirements of the environment. And major developments are not only apparent in recycling.

Over the past years the plastics industry as a relatively young sector has given proof of its adaptability and innovative spirit time and again. Optimisations and new processes have made ever higher performance possible (for instance in water cooling). In blown film technology, for example, thinner and thinner products can be manufactured using blown film processes with inline longitudinal stretching. At K 2022, more trend-setting further developments and technological innovations will be on show than anywhere else and it is the only plastics trade fair with a global reach. Therefore K in Duesseldorf is of enormous importance for the whole industry and its future.