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How important is the polyurethane industry to Europe’s economy?

Polyurethanes are essential for the manufacture of countless products due to their unique properties and versatility. Polyurethane materials are lightweight, strong, durable and they can resist abrasion, weathering and corrosion.

Because of their use across multiple sectors, the polyurethane value-chain is a strong contributor to the EU economy, creating a value of €218.1bn and directly adding 363,500 jobs.

  1. Producers of diisocyanates and polyols – the building blocks of polyurethanes

In Europe, 23 companies from the chemical industry are directly involved in the production of the main components for polyurethanes (polyols/diisocyanates) creating jobs for 13,500 employees across Europe.

The production of these building blocks for polyurethanes directly creates €7.1bn in economic value. Downstream, the producers of polyols and diisocyanates supply about 6,500 companies who are their direct customers, and more than 32,700 producers of polyurethane-based finished goods.

Within ISOPA and ALIPA’s Membership are some of the largest companies who supply downstream users with polyols and diisocyanates throughout Europe.

  1. The production of polyurethanes creates thousands of jobs in the EU

There are more than 32,700 producers of polyurethane-based finished goods, such as foams, sealants or elastomers. The highest number of companies involved as direct customers of polyurethane and producers of polyurethane-based products are found in Germany and Italy.

Polyurethanes are polymers with an impressive range of different forms. Depending on the synthesis process and the final formulation, different types can be created with various characteristics and a wide range of applications. 

While flexible and rigid foams have by far the highest market share, and make up 70% of polyurethane volumes in Europe, Elastomers, Sealants, Coatings and others add substantial value to the European economy.

350,000 employees directly contribute in terms of polyurethane production, including direct and downstream customers and their suppliers and subcontractors. Most of these jobs are created through the production of polyurethane foams that are flexible for seating and furniture applications, or rigid for construction and insulation.

  1. Polyurethanes are used across many sectors and applications

Through its many applications, polyurethane is used by 5.1 million people throughout the EU in their work. Close to 244,000 companies throughout Europe are adding value to the EU economy using polyurethane materials.

On top of their economic importance for many sectors of the EU economy, polyurethanes make an important contribution to sustainability in construction, mobility and many other sectors.

Polyurethanes reduce energy costs and make buildings eco-friendlier for the future. Experts estimate that worldwide insulation of buildings to optimal standards could reduce global CO2 emissions by 20%.

In the automotive sector, polyurethanes are used as coatings to make cars more durable and when used in composite materials they allow for a reduction of vehicle weight by up to 30%. Such lightweight materials will gain an even greater importance in the growing e-mobility sector.