The Threat to the UK Glass Fibre Composites Industry

The UK glass fibre composites (GRP) sector needs to tread carefully following concerns raised by Glassfibre Europe on recent increased glass fibre production across Egypt Ref1. Whilst low-cost glass fibre is extremely attractive to importers and users of the product, the UK has no control over its carbon footprint and with the current UK Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) consultation Ref2 including glass fibre in its remit, the UK needs to ensure and protect the future of our substantial and valuable GRP sector. In the not too distant future it is highly likely that UK importers of glass fibre from overseas countries using carbon intensive production methods will have to pay significant carbon tax on this product, making it far less economically attractive.

The increased production capacity also puts current and future glass fibre production in the UK and Europe under increasing threat and it is critical that UK legislation tackles attempts by other nations to dominate the market by basing plants in low-cost-countries that have lower import duties. The EU has struggled to get control of this issue as duties can easily get fragmented in trade defence, owing to separate investigations per product category or country Ref1. It is important that UK learns this lesson quickly to avoid similar bureaucratic issues.

Glass production in the UK employs upwards of 3,500 people including the supply chains and local communities. With opportunities for expansion into the wind sector set to make demand soar, Composites UK would like to see glass fibre mats and woven materials – all currently made abroad – incentivised for on-shore production to protect our wind energy sector and offer expansion to the wider GRP industry. With the heaviest import duties currently being imposed on mats and woven material, this would seem to be a win-win scenario. As we move towards a Net-Zero world, reshoring material supply will ensure the future of our GRP manufacturing industry in the UK.

Composites UK will be working with the Department for Business and Trade, Department for Energy Security & Net-Zero and Make UK to ensure that the voices of the glass-fibre industry are heard.