Press Release, 11 April 2016
Coalition against Bayer Dangers
use of carbon dioxide in BAYER plastics production:
„Eco-swindle rather than Sustainability“
On June 17 the BAYER subsidiary COVESTRO will be opening the so-called “Dream Production” facility in Dormagen (Germany). The plant is to use carbon dioxide in the manufacture of polyurethane. BAYER describes the process as a “holistic approach to sustainability”. BAYER even commissioned the PR agency Ketchum Pleon to produce a marketing campaign. In a presentation, it is baldly stated that the facility is to be “communicated as an exemplary sustainability project to politicians, business partners, employees and the public”. The agency not only organized events, but also authored articles for popular magazines and trade journals.
Independent experts, by contrast, describe the plant as an “eco-swindle”. They criticize the large amount of energy needed to activate carbon dioxide and do not consider the process to represent an ecological advance. Instead, they demand a reduction in plastics consumption and effective steps for avoiding plastic waste.
It is hard to imagine a more energy-consuming strategy than using CO2, the molecule with the lowest energy level, to produce complex, high-energy compounds. Therefore there are no ecological grounds for promoting CO2 as the basis for synthesis – it is rather greenwashing. It is obviously impressive to boast of a process which transforms CO2 into apparently useful compounds. BAYER’s PR strategists are counting on the public not questioning the energy-related madness of this process.
Philipp Mimkes from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers: “The potential use of CO2 in plastics production will have a negligible role in light of the exponentially larger amounts which are released by energetic incineration processes. This is shown by a glance at the figures: BAYER intends to produce 5,000 tons of polyol on the basis of just 1,000 tons of CO2. That is around one-thousandth of BAYER’s annual CO2 emissions of some five million tons.”
Worldwide, around 8 percent of oil consumption is used in the production of plastics. The production of polyurethane especially is extremely energy-intensive: up to five tons of carbon dioxide are emitted for every ton of end product. Thus, even improving the production process by a few percent is not sustainable. The euphemistically named “Dream Production” is not sustainable in any way.
The German Government funded the project with 4 million Euro. The Coalition against BAYER Dangers demands that Government funding should not be used to subsidize the chemical industry but to achieve genuine ecological advances. Plastics should be replaced by biodegradable materials as far as possible, plastic consumption must be reduced drastically. The remainder should be manufactured from renewable raw materials such as seaweed, waste wood or straw which do not compete with food production.
Polyurethane foams are found in everyday items such as upholstery, sports equipment and automotive components. BAYER separated from its plastics production in 2015. As BAYER holds the majority interest in COVESTRO, it remains responsible for the division.