Maintaining the quality and safety standards of plastics 

Standards are important. They give us the confidence that a product will be fit for purpose and that we can rely on its quality and safety. International standards mean, for example, that a plumber in Finland can buy a PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe for drinking water and fit a PVC valve bought in Italy because their diameters follow a European standard.

Packaging provides a good example of how standardisations are used. To comply with legislation, plastics packaging items such as a bottle, tray or film intended to come into contact with foodstuffs has to demonstrate that it is safe for consumer use. The only way to demonstrate this is by adhering to a standard. The standard describes the test method to determine the overall migration of substances from the packaging into food, and the limits within which a packaging material can be classified as safe for food contact purposes.

However, the huge range of plastics applications means they are subject to a wide range of standardisation regimes, from very specific ones to more general ones, such as the carbon footprint of products. Typically, standards exist at three levels:




At the European level, legislation impacting our industry is driven more and more by the EU and requires transposition at the national level (Parliament/Council). 65% of new laws come from Brussels. A new regulatory strategy was introduced by the Council Resolution of 1985 on the ‘New Approach’ to technical harmonisation and standardisation. The New Approach relies on mandates from the European Commission to the European standardisation bodies: European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), giving these standards legally binding power or making them compulsory. Therefore it is important for Plastics Europe to be involved in the standards-making process.

Plastics Europe – a committed partner on standardisation issues

Public concern around environmental, safety and health issues has grown enormously and has influenced policy and regulation. The European Commission wants to involve all stakeholders in the integration of environmental aspects into European standardisation. This position has resulted in greater involvement of consumers and environmental NGOs. Plastics Europe is committed to being a partner in this process, providing transparent, fact-based industry input.

At the global level, business-to-business relations are based on agreements that conform to international standards, for example, in the automotive and electrical and electronic sectors and fire safety. At all levels – national, European and international – you can rely on us to represent the interests of the plastics industry responsibly and ethically. Because of the relevance standardisation has for the industry, we have created a Standardisation Working Group to identify relevant standardisation issues and encourage the participation of members in the standardisation process.