K 2022
"Plastics and sustainability are no longer a contradiction" / Interview with Thomas Franken from Messe Düsseldorf
This week, K 2022, the world's leading trade fair for the plastics industry, opens its turnstiles. For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic and Russia's attack on the Ukraine, producers, converters and buyers will come together from 19-26 October in Düsseldorf.

The role of show in the plastics industry and why such a platform is more necessary than ever in times of crisis are themes discussed by Thomas Franken, the director at Messe Düsseldorf (Germany; www.messe-duesseldorf.com) responsible for K 2022, who spoke with Plasteurope.com.

PIE: Three years after K 2019 and after more than two years of an enforced time-out for trade fairs and exhibitions due to the pandemic, how nervous are you about things getting going again?

Thomas Franken: Not at all nervous but very excited and full of expectations! What could be better for trade fair organisers than to see how the exhibition buildings are filling with life again, and everywhere across the site is throbbing with activity? Because of its size, its internationality and its duration, K 2022 will once again be something very special.

What are you personally looking forward to most of all?

Franken: Of course to the personal meetings, seeing people again whom I was unable to meet in the last few years, and making new contacts. My favourite moment will definitely be on the first day of the show when the gates open and visitors and exhibitors stream into the halls.

Do you expect more or fewer visitors and exhibitors than in 2019?

Franken: We do not of course have a crystal ball to make predictions, but we do know that both exhibitors and visitors are looking forward tremendously to the K to see innovations and join in the networking. On the other hand, we do not expect more visitors than we had three years ago. In 2019, we registered an amazing 224,116 visitors. Recent trade fairs have shown that, since Covid, a decline of between 20% and 30% is to be expected. It will be interesting to see how things turn out at the K.

Are you expecting any visitors from China?

Franken: Yes, 307 Chinese companies have registered for K this year. We also expect some visitors from China. I find that quite remarkable because, when they return to China, they have to spend many days in quarantine.

Up until now, Russian exhibitors have also been present. Presumably that will not be the case this time, or will there be some? Will there be any Ukrainian companies there?

Franken: Twenty-one Russian exhibitors were represented at K three years ago, and they will naturally be missing this year. Ukraine will be represented at K 2022 with four companies, in 2019, there were two.

The K is taking place at a time in which the global economy as a whole is in the middle of a deep economic and mood crisis. Are you worried that a cloud of depression will be hanging over the event?

Franken: No, I don't think so. The anticipation of going to the show and being able to at last give a live presentation and meet people in person still exists. Of course, the difficult situation with the global economy and above all the effects of the Ukraine war on energy supplies is exerting a heavy impact on many companies. But especially in a situation such as this, an industry platform like the K is particularly important, not only because it is a trade show for establishing business connections, but also because it offers an opportunity to intensively exchange ideas and information with so many nations in one place. That does not exist anywhere else. It also helps to provide new impulses, to jointly identify new strategies, and to master difficult times.

Plastics do not have a good reputation among the general public. Do you think that the K can counter this stigmatisation in any way?

Franken: Absolutely. The plastics industry has recognised in the last two decades that it must act and must consciously and emphatically drive development in the direction of sustainability. The first concrete solutions in this respect were presented back at K 2019. This year we anticipate a real quantum leap in the field of the circular economy. Never before has the plastics industry stood up together for an issue so intensively and so united across national borders.

Do you anticipate protests from militant environmentalists and climate activists?

Franken: No, not really. On the one hand, anyone who is interested in such matters can see how the industry is working flat out and with innovative force on finding sustainable and climate-saving solutions. On the other, the industry itself extends an invitation to direct dialogue, whether with NGOs, politicians or scientists, for example in the special show “Plastics Shape the Future” at K 2022.

Last question: Will there also be a K in 2025 – or is the plastics sector a dying industry?

Franken: Plastics have become indispensable in many areas of our everyday life – whether for packaging for foodstuffs or whether in mobility. Plastics and sustainability are no longer a contradiction. The K will celebrate its 70th anniversary this year, and I am convinced that it will also celebrate its 100th birthday in 2052.

No pandemic restrictions: As things stand, K 2022 will take place without the Covid restrictions of the last two years. This means there are no longer any access restrictions, distance regulations or strict requirements for the stand construction. At the moment, there is no obligation to wear a mask. Apart from that, the entire Düsseldorf exhibition and congress centre have been equipped with high-efficiency particulate air filters, which, according to the organisers, blow "clinically pure air" into the halls.

Thomas Franken has been employed at Messe Düsseldorf since 2009. Since September 2020 he has been “Project Director K” with responsibility for the “Global Portfolio Plastics & Rubber”. Franken studied international tourism and event management in Dortmund at the International School of Management.

PIE is once again on hand in Dusseldorf for K 2022, where you will find us from 19-26 October in Hall 6 at Stand C 28. On October 20, our well-known KI Group Summit will feature exciting presentations from industry leaders from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Congress Center CCD South, Hall 1, Room 15. In addition, we will offer short polymer price presentations every day at our stand.
17.10.2022 Plasteurope.com [251256-0]
Published on 17.10.2022

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