EU Investing in its Future - Plastics Construction Solutions
EuPC and PlasticsEurope
Brussels, Belgium
VLEVA Conference Room
Avenue de Cortenbergh 71
1000 Brussels, Belgium
24/06/2015 (All day)
The conference was an excellent occasion to learn how the plastics industry contributes to the main objectives of the new European Commission such as growth, jobs, investment and energy efficiency. This conference is part of the EU Sustainable Energy Week – Energy Day
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Plastics at the heart of key EU debates on growth, innovation and energy efficiency

You can talk about construction from many angles. You can talk about plastics from many angles. But talk about plastics in the building and construction sector, and something magic happens. It causes enriching and inspiring discussions on energy efficiency, skills development, combating youth unemployment, competitiveness and even design, as was demonstrated during the conference entitled: EU Investing in its future. Plastics Constructions Solutions. The conference took place in Brussels on 24 June under the auspices of the European Plastics Converters (EuPC) and PlasticsEurope.

Plastics as a growth engine
"Just try to imagine a world without plastic in construction – it’s almost impossible!” With these words, Frédéric Midy, CEO EMEA at Aliaxis, set the tone for the conference and pointed out that plastics are all around us and play a vital role in modern buildings today.

The conference on 24 June took place in the aftermath of EU Sustainable Energy Week and on the eve of continued stakeholder discussions on the revised Circular Economy package. To this background, Christophe Sykes, Director General of Construction Products Europe, updated the audience on the various legislative proposals. One thing is clear, the construction sector is listed as one of the sectors with the greatest economic potential so a sound and informed dialogue with all relevant stakeholders is key.

On behalf of the European Builders Confederation (EBC), Secretary General Riccardo Viaggi grabbed the audience’s attention with one phrase: "What’s good for SME’s, is good for construction”. Seeing that 91, 9% of all construction companies in Europe employ less than 10 employees, this is a truth that cannot be argued with. The EBC’s agenda is clear: building an SME friendly business environment in Europe.

Plastics as a job enabler
Czech MEP Martina Dlabajova (Photo: 2nd from the left) addressed the 108 participants who gathered from all over Europe. As the winner of the 2015 MEP award in the category Employment and Social Affairs, she rightly emphasized the importance of the building and construction sector for the EU labour market and EU competitiveness.

With five million young people currently unemployed in the EU, acquiring the right skills and competences is vital. The European Alliance for Apprenticeships, a European Commission initiative in the field of vocational education and training (VET), supports companies in providing apprenticeships. European Commission representative Helen Hoffman had just returned from Riga to inform the group about the Riga Conclusions that will further strengthen work-based learning. From a company perspective, Elke Hartleif, HR Director at VEKA in Germany, testified to the success that apprenticeships can bring to both employees and the company at large. Successful apprenticeships, among other things, have contributed to VEKA receiving the Best Employer of the Year award in Germany in 2014. "Apprenticeships lead to skills that lead to jobs”, stated Elke Hartleif.

The conference also brought discussions to life during a demonstration of a PVC flooring installation. Philippe Tricaud, Head of Technical Support at Forbo, stressed that "no education kills products” and showed numerous examples of flooring gone wrong. About 90% of complaints related to floor coverings work are due to installation and/or subfloor preparation defects. Problems that can be solved by a structural approach to floor covering installing training in Europe, according to Tricaud.

Plastics as an energy saver

Throughout the conference it became ever more obvious that for many grand challenges Europe faces today, plastics provide answers. Reducing the energy demand in building stock in the EU by 80% in 2050 (compared to 2005) is the ambition of the Renovate Europe campaign, led by Adrian Joyce. The EU imports 53% of its energy needs at a cost of more than 400 billion EUR per year. So, it is worth looking at investments in ways to increase energy efficiencies, and this is where the building and construction sector comes in.

For challenges related to resource depletion, urbanization, demographic change, mobility or access to clean water, too, plastics offer smart and innovative solutions. Richard Thommeret (photo: 1st from the right), Corporate Strategic Marketing Director Construction & Energy at Solvay, demonstrated how the main assets of plastics help save energy and contribute to efficient water management. Plastics materials are also key elements to enable numerous renewable energy solutions in Europe such as solar panels and wind turbines.

Plastics as a designer’s favourite
Some jaw-dropping examples of plastics in architecture were shown by Ewa Kurylowicz during the closing session focusing on design and innovation. In architecture, plastics play a role that cannot be replaced by any other materials, both from a functional and from an aesthetic point of view. Plastics are used for interior finishing for instance, due to its specific colour options, or for exterior panels due to its strength, weight and durable nature.

Plastics in Europe: here to stay

The plastics industry, and in particular the building and construction sector, contributes to the European Commission’s agenda for growth, jobs, investment and energy efficiency. Architects, SME’s, companies, politicians and other European stakeholders showed us on 24 June that the technology and innovation in our sector bring about huge opportunities. As we embark upon the circular economy journey, we will continue to work hard to convert all of these business creations into tangible, real things that every European can benefit from in his or her day-to-day life.                
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