MEP Maria Grapini’s interest in green initiatives
and zero-waste economy solutions

Romanian MEP Maria Grapini dedicated her 2019-2024 mandate to several important causes, adresing issues from various economic and industrial fields.

One of the is the Zero Waste initiative in the industrial sector as Grapini advocates for sustainable systems and the redesign of our relationship with resources to accelerate a just transition towards zero waste for the benefit of people and planet.

On Thursday 18 May, at the initiative of EUMEPS, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Maria Grapini visited the working point of HIRSCH Porozell in Timisoara, Romania. The visit, under the umbrella of the Romanian National Association ROMEPS, was not only the occasion for high-quality discussions but also to present an Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) zero-waste process plant to Mrs Grapini and thus show the engagement of EPS Industries to achieve circularity. Prior to MEP Grapini’s visit in Romania, EUMEPS had meet with her in her Brussels office.

Reaching carbon neutrality: the example of the Timisoara facility

The EPS industry has a lot to offer, and the best way to learn about it is to visit one of the many EPS production plants that there is in Europe. MEP Maria Grapini made no mistake and took the opportunity when EUMEPS proposed she visits one based in her home country, Romania. The visit was jointly organised by EUMEPS, ROMEPS and HIRSCH Porozell, a EUMEPS converter member that operates in 4 production sites in Romania and employs 200 persons. “The plant produces EPS insulation panels with relatively new machinery, at a capacity of 200 000 m3 a year”, explains Stefan Milhail, Executive Director of the ROMEPS association. Indeed, the Timisoara plant was bought in 2016 because of the high-quality equipment used in the plant. Marius Schweitzer, General Manager for HIRSCH Porozell Romania explains: “The majority of the machines in the production line are new or relatively new generation HIRSCH equipment. It is a hallmark of our company when our machines produce HIRSCH EPS materials in a seamless manner”.

What’s more, like all the other Romanian HIRSCH plants, the one in Timisoara operates as a “zero-waste” facility – a great example of engagement toward circularity to present to MEP Maria Grapini. “For us, a zero-waste plant is a facility in which all residues resulting from the production line of a finished product such as EPS insulation boards are reintroduced as shredded or ground material in a minor percentage, without compromising the quality and abilities of the finished product”, adds Marius Schweitzer. Thus, offcuts from finished products are not thrown away but reintroduced in the production line. The plant also has great projects coming in: in the next few months, it will start to recycle EPS from white goods at a speed of 100kg per hour. “We hope to close the end-of-life circle for EPS products and reach carbon footprint neutrality for both our products and our factories”, concludes Marius Schweitzer.

Wide-ranging discussions on the circular economy of EPS industries

MEP Grapini came to the visit with her background and experience in the production of textile materials which resulted in great exchanges between her, ROMEPS and of course HIRSCH Porozell – all with constraints of their own. “She feels very close to the industry because she is aware of the obstacles that a production process can entail, from the supply of raw materials to the correct sizing of the market”, explains Marius Schweitzer. The presentation of the entire process of producing EPS from raw materials to the end-product whether it is white good EPS packaging, insulation boards or underfloor heating panels was particularly interesting for MEP Maria Grapini: “She was surprised that in Romania there are no longer producers of raw materials”, adds Stefan Milhail, “and that it has been the case for the past 30 years”. She was particularly happy to see industries still thriving in her hometown.

Following the presentation of the HIRSCH Team and then of ROMEPS, the discussion tackled the importance of the EPS industry as a solution toward energy independence and that of EPS material in promoting energy retrofitting processes and developments. The precarious building stock in Romania was also discussed as well as the central role played by EPS converters in building renovation and in economy of scale for energy rehabilitation. In Romania, the pressure of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which applies to governmental mechanisms, also reinforces the key role of EPS industries.

Finally, industry participants raised their concerns about insufficient funding coming from the European Union and governments to meet the target set by the European Union for 2030 and 2050, the lack of workforce in the construction industry and the difficulties faced by the Romanian construction sector.

Bringing together public and private stakeholders gave excellent outcomes, and all participants agree: initiatives such as this should be intensified in the future!