Brandenburg is a fairly rural state surrounding Germany’s capital city-state Berlin, which is rich in raw materials. For a long time, the city of Schwarzheide relied upon the lignite industry. Local businesses used it to produce polyurethane (i.e. plastic and synthetic resins). However, lignite is finite and coal-fired power plants are speeding up the damaging effects of global warming. It is therefore no surprise that there has been a change of thinking in Brandenburg.
The eastern federal state began the process of shutting down its first opencast coal mine in 2015. The second has been out of service since autumn 2019. In any event, the German Government plans to have shut down all coal-fired power plants by 2038 in order to reduce CO2 emissions and transition across to renewable energies.
Brandenburg’s transition plan
The people of Brandenburg have been working on their own transition plan to positively influence the imminent structural change. In Schwarzheide, local companies and research institutions have been collaborating to shift away from lignite-based plastics toward sustainable bioplastics. In this way, Brandenburg-based companies are addressing the issue of fossil fuels – themselves a finite resource – and their contribution to climate change, while meeting growing consumer demand for sustainable solutions.
The Schwarzheide business community has fallen back on its considerable expertise in specialized chemical products. This industry focus was the result of the last sweeping structural change in 1990. Shortly after the reunification of Germany, the chemical giant BASF took over a polyurethane production plant in Schwarzheide. Several medium-sized suppliers and cooperation companies followed suit. Since then, almost 600 companies from the plastics and chemical industries have settled in Brandenburg. Their total turnover amounted to EUR 3.4 billion in 2016. Local research institutions such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP also support innovation in this field.