Brussels, 15th of June 2020—The European Manufacturers of Expanded Polystyrene, EUMEPS, says the European Commission’s recent call for a Renovation Wave would also benefit a broader green recovery agenda. Press release from our European Association.
One of the biggest challenges for the European Union and its plans for a European Green Deal is knowing where to start. A hydrogen economy and building efficiency and circularity and more renewables all sound great, but you can’t do them all at once.
“The Commission’s recent call for an EU Renovation Wave is clearly good for companies that produce high-performance insulation for roofs and walls of existing buildings” said EUMEPS President Paolo Garbagna. “But the Renovation Wave could also promote other high-level goals including increased use of recycled material.”
It’s worth remembering that building efficiency ticks the first box in the green economy priorities of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Europe has a large stock of old buildings, but only around 1% of the EU’s buildings are renovated each year. That means there’s a lot of valuable energy wasted heating and cooling buildings that could easily be made more energy efficient. Reducing the amount of energy wasted frees up energy that can be diverted to better uses, which is essential to the EU’s goal of going carbon neutral by 2050.
“EUMEPS welcomes the Commission’s commitment to a Renovation Wave and the outline of its strategy shared in the roadmap published this May,” said Garbagna. “This initiative is a great opportunity for scaling up current renovation rates and the EU’s climate and energy efficiency goals. We agree that increased renovation can be a key contributor to creating jobs and stimulating economic recovery in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We embrace the Commission’s finding that buildings are also critical for making circularity work and its objective to implement the Renovation Wave in line with circular economy principles.”
A recent independent comparative assessment conducted for public authorities in Germany underlined the outstanding ecological performance of EPS insulation throughout its full life cycle, including at the end of its (first) life. For many key applications, it ranks EPS insulation as the most ecological option among renewable, mineral-based and other synthetic materials.
“Expanded polystyrene (EPS) has proven to be one of the best thermal insulation materials,” said Mr. Garbagna. “Consisting of 98% air, it is inherently resource efficient. And thanks to its outstanding insulation performance, EPS insulation saves a lot of energy and CO2 over its entire, long service life, which sometimes lasts for 100 years. At the end of its service life, it can be recycled, including back into new building insulation. PolyStyreneLoop, an EU LIFE-supported industry project, demonstrates economically viable, closed-loop recycling of EPS insulation at industrial scale.”
“Building renovation can also help create demand for recycled materials and thus promote the circular economy. EPS is widely recycled already, but too much still ends up in landfills and incinerators for lack of efficient collection and recycling systems. Because EPS building insulation can be made from recycled EPS fish boxes and other common packaging materials, the Renovation Wave could indirectly stimulate demand for all EPS waste,” he said.
The EPS industry has been working towards further increasing EPS recycling by investing in new technologies to exceed the EU’s goals by 2030. EUMEPS has publicly pledged that the European EPS industry will recycle 46% of EPS waste, i.e. 257,000 tons per year, by 2025. EUMEPS has also been actively cooperating with more than 200 other stakeholders in the Circular Plastics Alliance with a view to collectively using 10 million tons of recycled plastic in European products by 2025. Initiated by the European Commission, this Alliance represents the whole European plastic industry.
In addition to promoting the circular economy, the Renovation Wave could help grow the market for solar hot water heaters and building-integrated solar photovoltaics. Many countries delayed promoting those investments because it’s easier to make buildings carbon-negative if they are already low-carbon buildings first.
“While EU and national policymakers are rightly focused on reducing the impact of the pandemic, climate change promises even bigger disruption,” said Mr. Garbagna. “The longer countries wait to begin reducing carbon emissions the harder and more expensive it will become to do so. Decarbonisation and energy efficiency require a transformative approach in the way we live, and the building sector plays a crucial role in this transition.”
“In order not just to help jump-start Europe’s stalled economies but invest in climate change mitigation and adaptation today, the EU needs to prioritise those investments that will make an immediate contribution towards its climate neutrality goals while also facilitating other goals such as greater recycling and use of recycled materials and increased installation of solar energy systems on renovated buildings,” he said.
The association for European Manufacturers of Expanded Polystyrene (EUMEPS) is the voice of the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) industry in Brussels. Our members are 23 National Associations of Expanded Polystyrene in Europe. They represent local EPS converters, raw material suppliers, additive suppliers, EPS recyclers, and machinery provider companies. Our associated members are individual companies across the entire EPS supply chain. Altogether our membership represents 1.000 companies, most of them small and medium sized companies (SMEs), which directly employ around 60,000 people in Europe.