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Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) plays a crucial role in the construction industry, particularly in insulation. However, managing EPS waste remains a significant challenge. This interview with Amaury Omnès, President of the French Association for Insulation in Expanded Polystyrene for Buildings (Afipeb), and member of the EUMEPS Board of Directors sheds light on the efforts and strategies employed by industry stakeholders to enhance EPS waste management. Originally published in Le Moniteur on 28 June 2024, this discussion provides valuable insights into the current state of EPS waste handling, the responsibilities of different actors, and the advancements in recycling processes.


Interview Translation:


Towards Better EPS Waste Management?

Le Moniteur: How did you realise it was your products being discarded on roads and other areas?

Amaury Omnès: We still face "illegal dumping" where construction waste is thrown at the roadside or forest edges. The products are labelled, allowing municipal agents or authorities to contact the producer, as the brand and regulatory information are visible. The lot number on the label often enables identification of the distributor and eventually the final artisan or individual customer.

In February at Hirsch Isolation, the national gendarmerie informed us they found three big bags of EPS insulation scraps (around 3 m3) and packaging bags with labels, along with other construction waste (pallets, bags, coating, metal profile cuttings) dumped along the departmental road in Gard (D51) towards Messac. We collected these to integrate the EPS scraps into our nearest plant's process. By tracing the adhesive labels on the packaging (factory, manufacturing date), we linked them to corresponding sales. While we recently managed to trace back to the installation company in one case, we have no information on the investigation's outcome, handled by the gendarmerie.


Le Moniteur: What are the key stages where waste can be generated in a distribution chain?

A.O.: There is almost no waste during transport. Naturally, the risk increases with more loadings/unloadings. Most waste is generated on-site, known as "cutting scraps" (e.g., hot wire cutting the last panel at the end of a facade or the last hollow core slab at the end of a floor span). A calepinage study is usually done beforehand to minimise scrap rates and reuse as much scrap as possible. For insulation manufacturers, the main waste comes from production cuttings (panels cut from a block leave a peripheral "crust" that is then ground and recycled). On-site, the most common waste is cutting scrap. EPS being recyclable, these scraps can then be collected for recycling in factories.


Le Moniteur: How is responsibility distributed among the various actors for waste management?

A.O.: Responsibility, as with any construction material, is tied to incoterms (reciprocal obligations of the seller and buyer) and general sales or contractual conditions. Generally, with the implementation of the REP PMCB, the craftsman is responsible for proper waste sorting on-site. The logistics for waste treatment are organised by the relevant eco-organisation. Funding for these operations is provided by eco-contributions paid to eco-organisations by producers. For EPS insulation, many Afipeb members offer recycling services: they contract directly with the installation company to collect on-site scraps for recycling in factories. This service is increasingly developing.


Le Moniteur: What are the challenges in tracking and reducing waste in the distribution chain?

A.O.: In factories, the main challenge for EPS insulation manufacturers is, as in any industry, mastering the process to avoid producing non-compliant products. Specifically for EPS, optimising block dimensions is crucial to limit cutting scraps (based on the dimensions of finished products to be cut). On-site, the challenge is ensuring the installation company complies with REP PMCB and sorts its waste correctly: either on-site for larger projects, at their partner's facility with the provided bins, or in bags supplied by the producer under recycling services.


This comprehensive interview with Amaury Omnes highlights the multi-faceted approach required to manage EPS waste effectively. From tracing waste back to its source to implementing rigorous on-site waste sorting and recycling protocols, the EPS industry is making strides towards sustainability. By understanding and addressing the challenges at each stage of the distribution and installation process, stakeholders can significantly reduce EPS waste, contributing to a more circular economy.

Original Article Source: Le Moniteur, 28 June 2024. Available at Le Moniteur.

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