The EU is the world's biggest producer of glass with a market share of around one third of total world production. The industry is known for the quality of its products, its capacity for technological innovation and its skilled labour force. The glass industries comprise five sectors covering different glass products, applications and markets: containers, flat glass, glass fibre, special glasses and domestic glass.
The EU glass industry is at a crossroads. On the one hand, glass, like any other sector in Europe, will have to cope with the structural transformations that accompany the digital and green transitions. Production will have to become carbon neutral and circular in three decades while processes will be even more automated and digital in the coming years. On the other hand, glass will be at the forefront of those transitions and many glass-made products will get new business opportunities in the coming years. Glass is a key enabling material for a carbon neutral Europe and its industry aims to remain at the forefront of low-carbon solutions in the European Union. The glass industry is an important part of European industry and is strongly driven by market decisions, including concerning relocations. However, the production process is energy intensive and manufacturers face challenges such as high start‑up costs, tied distribution channels, lack of security of supply, energy prices and non-EU country trade barriers. Production facilities are also capital intensive and require long investment cycles.
New energy performance standards for buildings, the EU Renovation Wave, the circular economy or increased installation of solar panels should boost investment and demands for new glass products, such as smart glass technologies. The same is true in the transport sector where the glass industry will have a major role to play to roll out smart and autonomous vehicles.
To fully tap into the potential of these new markets while overcoming the challenges of green and digital transitions, the EU needs an industrial strategy for glass, which remains an important job provider in the EU (186 000 for the EU 27) and an important supplier for other industries (construction, automotive, domestic and leisure).
An opinion on this topic will provide the possibility to discuss this issue with all stakeholders in society. This opinion can be used as the background paper for the future discussions on the renewed EU industrial strategy and work on basic materials.