Chemicals production and consumption statistics


Data extracted in December 2018.

Planned article update: November 2019.

Highlights

The production of chemicals hazardous to health increased in the EU by 10 million tonnes in 2017.

The consumption of chemicals hazardous to health increased in the EU by 2 million tonnes in 2017.

Production of chemicals, EU-28, 2004–17

This article presents an analysis of indicators that have been developed and compiled by Eurostat, covering the production and consumption of industrial chemicals with a particular focus on substances being hazardous to human health or hazardous to the environment.


Full article

Total production of chemicals

Figure 1 shows the development of EU-28 chemicals production since 2004 (index 2004 = 100) for three groupings: (a) total production of industrial chemicals, which have been evaluated (b) chemicals hazardous to the environment, and (c) substances hazardous to human health (toxic chemicals). The total production of industrial chemicals in the EU-28 increased each year between 2004 and 2007, rising overall by 6.1 % to peak at 330 million tonnes in 2007. During the financial and economic crisis, production fell by 24 million tonnes in 2008 and by a further 37 million tonnes in 2009 (or about 18 % in total). The rebound in activity in 2010 made up for the losses reported in 2009. In 2011, the production of chemicals in the EU-28 decreased again and and then decreased only slightly during the period 2011–2016 , which was still 40–50 million tonnes below the precrisis peak in 2007. In 2017, for the first time since 2010, there was a noticeable increase of 10 million tonnes.The production of industrial chemicals was largely concentrated in Western Europe.

Figure 1: Production of chemicals, EU-28, 2004–17
(Index 2004 = 100) - Source: Eurostat (env_chmhaz)

Production of chemicals hazardous to the environment

Figure 2 presents the development of the production of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment, shown as an index in Figure 1, analysed in more detail according to five classes of environmental hazard. The aggregated production of these five classes in the EU-28 slightly grew between 2004 and 2007 to reach a peak of 92 million tonnes. The production of chemicals hazardous to the environment fell by 15 million tonnes during the next two years to a low of 77 million tonnes in 2009. As was the case for the overall production of chemicals, there was a strong re-bound in the production of chemicals hazardous to the environment in 2010. During the period 2011–2015 the production of these five classes fell from 86 to 75 million tonnes which is an absolute minimum for the entire reporting period. Starting in 2016, production began to rise again and reached a level of 81 million tonnes in 2017.

Figure 2: Production of chemicals hazardous to the environment, EU-28, 2004–17
(million tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (env_chmhaz)

In the EU-28, the share of chemicals hazardous to the environment in the total chemicals production was relatively unchanged over the period 2004–2017, fluctuating between 27 % and 30 %.

Overall, the production of the five different classes of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment declined only marginally (1.8 million tonnes) from 2004 to 2017. However, there was a wide degree of variation in the development of production for the five different hazard classes. The largest overall decrease in EU-28 production between 2004 and 2017 was recorded for chemicals with moderate chronic environmental hazard (as the production volume was reduced by about 13  %). In contrast, an increase was recorded for chemical with significant acute environmental hazard( about 253  % over the period under consideration). Chemicals with chronic environmental hazard have a maximum share of only 0.1  % of all chemicals hazardous to the environment.

Production of chemicals hazardous to health

Figure 3 presents the development of EU-28 production of chemicals hazardous to human health shown as an index in Figure 1, analysed according to five hazard classes. The pattern of production for chemicals hazardous to health followed a trend similar to the one observed for chemicals hazardous to the environment. Production reached a peak in 2007, after which there was a significant decline in production (that coincided with the financial and economic crisis), followed by a strong rebound in 2010. In 2011, the production of chemicals hazardous to health decreased again, and continued to decrease to a low in 2015. In 2017 an increase was observed.

The EU-28 production of chemicals hazardous to health (all five hazard classes together) reached a peak of 248 million tonnes in 2007. Production fell in 2008 and further in 2009 to a level of 204 million tonnes. The rebound in activity in 2010 made up for most of the losses recorded in 2009 but was followed by further reductions in 2011. Since then production of chemicals hazardous to health slightly decreased. As a result, the EU-28 level of production of chemicals hazardous to health in 2015 and 2016 was about 209 million tonnes. The increase in 2017 resulted in a level of 219 million tonnes, about 20 million tonnes less than in 2004.

The share of all chemicals hazardous to health in total EU-28 chemicals production remained on a roughly constant level over the period under consideration shown in Figure 3. From about 77 % in 2004, the share of all chemicals hazardous to health fell to 75 % in 2007. While there was an absolute spike in the share of chemicals hazardous to health in 2008 (which may be attributed to a rapid decline in the overall production of chemicals during the financial and economic crisis, rather than an increase in the production of all chemicals hazardous to health), the share subsequently continued to fall, reaching the lowest value in 2015 and 2016 (74 %) and rose again to 75 % in 2017, see also in Figure 1.

Figure 3: Production of chemicals hazardous to health, EU-28, 2004–17
(million tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (env_chmhaz)

EU-28 production of the most hazardous chemicals - carcinogenic,mutagenic and reprotoxic (CMR) hazard — hardly changed over the period from 2004 to 2007 and remained at a level between 41 million tonnes and 42 million tonnes.Production fell between 2007 and 2008 to stand at 37 million tonnes. There was a recovery in the level of production of CMRs in 2009 and 2010 back to a level that was slightly lower to that recorded prior to the financial and economic crisis. From 2010, the level of production of CMR chemicals declined once more to reach about 33 million tonnes by 2015, the lowest level over the whole period from 2004 to 2017. Starting in 2016, production increased again. The relative share of CMR chemicals in total EU-28 chemical production fluctuated between 12 % and 14 % over the period under consideration.

Total consumption of chemicals

The consumption indicators build on the results of the production indicators. Consumption volumes result by adding the net import to the production volumes of the chemicals. While the production figures of the individual chemicals remain relatively constant over time, the import / export figures vary considerably.

Figure 4 shows the development of EU-28 chemicals consumption since 2004, calculated as indices of the total consumption of industrial chemicals, of chemicals hazardous to the environment, and of chemicals hazardous to human health. The total consumption of industrial chemicals in the EU-28 – similar to the total production in Figure 1 – increased between 2004 and 2007, rising to peak at 361 million tonnes in 2007. During the financial and economic crisis, consumption fell in 2008 and further in 2009 (or about 21 % in total). The rebound in activity in 2010 made up for the losses reported in 2009. In 2011, the consumption of chemicals in the EU-28 decreased again and remained relatively stable during the period 2011–2016 with another smaller peak in 2014. Consumption is still approximately 53 million tonnes below the pre-crisis peak in 2007.

Figure 4: Consumption of chemicals, EU-28, 2004–17
(Index 2004 = 100) - Source: Eurostat (env_chmhaz)

Consumption of chemicals hazardous to the environment

Figure 5 shows the timeline for the apparent consumption of chemicals hazardous to the environment from 2004 – 2017. Over the period from 2004 to 2015, differences between the consumption and the production of chemicals are between 0 % and 5 % (about 4 million tonnes) and the consumption is almost always higher than the production thus a net import surplus occurs for each year. The apparent consumption indicator shows very similar values as the indicator on the production of chemicals hazardous to the environment, see Figure 2. Differences between consumption and production, however, occur in 2016 and 2017. In 2016 and more particularly in 2017, a considerable net export of chemicals hazardous to the environment occurs. Net export in 2017 substracts about 12 million tonnes or 15 % from the sum of the production of the five classes of chemicals hazardous to the environment, see Figure 4 (hazardous to the environment).

Figure 5: Consumption of chemicals hazardous to the environment, EU-28, 2004–17
(million tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (env_chmhaz)

Consumption of chemicals hazardous to health

Figure 6 shows the time lines for the apparent consumption of chemicals hazardous to health from 2004 – 2017. Differences between the consumption and production are relatively small. Net trade adds between about 8 % (20 million tonnes) to the sum of the production of the five classes of chemicals hazardous to health. In difference to chemicals hazardous to the environment, the consumption is always higher than the production. Thus a net import surplus occurs for each year. In 2016 and 2017, net imports indeed decline sharply, but net trade does still result in a small import surplus of about 1 million tonnes.

The apparent consumption indicator shows similar figures as the indicator on the production of chemicals hazardous to health, see Figure 3. In general, the apparent consumption is dominated by the production of chemicals.

Figure 6: Consumption of chemicals hazardous to health, EU-28, 2004–17
(million tonnes) - Source: Eurostat (env_chmhaz)

Data sources

The production indicators presented in this article are derived from annual statistics on the production of manufactured goods (Prodcom). In addition, the consumption indicators integrate data on imports and exports from COMEXT (EUROSTAT’s reference database for international trade). The evaluation of both (PRODCOM and COMEXT) is based on publicly available data. The consumption is calculated according to the equation: Consumption = production + imports – exports

Data for the EU-28 aggregate are only available from reference year 2004 onwards. The information presented on the production and consumption of chemicals hazardous to the environment and of chemicals hazardous to health has been compiled from detailed production statistics and import/export statistics. As well as the total figures, each of these aggregates is available with a division into five hazard classes: these classes of aquatic environmental impacts and toxicity to human health follow official classifications in EU legislation based on scientific expert judgement. It should be noted that the indicators do not describe the actual risks associated with the use of chemicals, but instead their level of production in quantity terms. Indeed, production and consumption are not synonymous with exposure, as some chemicals are handled in closed systems, or as intermediate goods in controlled supply chains. With the introduction of the CLP regulation (Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures), the classification system for the indicators was updated according to the classification of substances under the CLP regulation.

For the indicator on chemicals hazardous to the environment, chemicals are divided into five classes based on their hazard on the aquatic environment, see Figure 2. An analysis of the production and consumption of chemicals hazardous to the environment can be used to monitor any developments in shifting from more harmful to less harmful chemicals. The classification focuses on aquatic toxicity and seeks to take into account the inherent ecotoxicity of chemical substances. Special attention is given to bioaccumulation and persistency.

Chemicals hazardous to health are divided into five toxicity classes, see Figure 3. An analysis of the production and consumption of chemicals hazardous to human health can be used to monitor any developments in shifting production from more to less chemicals hazardous to health and thereby address an important objective of REACH: to reduce risks through the substitution of hazardous by less hazardous substances.

In 2009, in collaboration with the Directorates General of the European Commission responsible for enterprise and industry and for the environment, Eurostat published a baseline study providing a set of indicators to monitor the effectiveness of the REACH Regulation. In 2012, Eurostat released an update of this study as well as a summary. In 2017, the 10 years update of the REACH Baseline Study has been released by the European Commission, DG Growth.

Context

The General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 — also referred to as the 7th Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) — guides the EU’s environment policy up to 2020. It contains proposals for further actions that promote the implementation of REACH and aims to develop — by 2018 — a ‘Union strategy for a non-toxic environment’ that is conducive to innovation and the development of sustainable substitutes including non-chemical solutions, building on cross-cutting measures to be undertaken by 2015 to ensure:

  • the safety of manufactured nanomaterials and materials with similar properties;
  • the minimisation of exposure to endocrine disruptors;
  • appropriate regulatory approaches to address combination effects of chemicals; and
  • the minimisation of exposure to chemicals in products, including inter alia imported products, with a view to promoting non-toxic material cycles and reducing indoor exposure to harmful substances.

The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In June 2014, an Open Working Group of the General Assembly issued a proposal including 17 goals and 169 targets, for adoption by the UN General Assembly on 25-27 September 2015.

Three targets in the proposal call for action in areas related to the production and consumption of chemicals. These are target 3.9: "By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination", under Goal 3 "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being across all ages"; target 6.3 "By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and increasing recycling and safe reuse by [x] per cent globally" (where the "x" is to be defined at a later stage), under Goal 6 "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all"; and target 12.4 "By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment", under Goal 12 "Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns".

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was agreed in 2015 and is a “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity“, according to its preamble. It provides a window of opportunity to drive transformative changes in the chemicals and waste sector to move towards sustainable development. Within these processes, intense discussions and clarifications are taking place about the question of what contributions can be made by the chemical industry to support the Sustainable Development Goals. The strong limitations of non-sustainable chemistry are clearly visible now. The recent challenges require a new way of thinking about chemicals and a new way to handle them. A holistic approach is necessary to realise the benefits of chemicals for societies in reaching the SDGs – and to prevent the negative impacts of chemicals along their life cycle. This holistic approach is called “sustainable chemistry” (Blum et al. 2017; UNEP 2018). Such an approach should take into account the three dimensions of sustainable development, preventive measures, and the entire life cycle of a chemical (design, production, use and disposal).

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Environment (t_env)
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Consumption of chemicals by hazardousness - EU 28 (sdg_12_10)
Production and consumption of chemicals by hazard class (env_chmhaz)
Hazardous substances