Workstream Sustainable Building and Living, Focus on Plastics

ISC3 – International Sustainable Chemistry Collaborative Centre

Workstream report Plastics in Sustainable Building & Living - public presentation

The workstream report Plastics in Sustainable Building & Living was released online in January 2021. Due to countless Covid-related delays of the professional international conferences in the field the report is going to be presented at the International Conference on Green Building (ICoGB) 2021 in Oslo on September 3d-5th 2021 as well as at the 9th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD) in Bonn on September 20th-21st 2021.

Is plastic waste the building material of the future?

„Plastic is one of the most used materials for consumer goods, packaging and as building material. The use of plastics in the building sector is greatly influenced by current megatrends: climate change, pollution, demography and urbanisation, need for resilience, health, as well as affordable housing and shelter with its regional implications. Plastic waste poses severe threats to the environment and humans as it continues to increase in volume, causing harm to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Could the use of plastic as a raw material for the production of construction material, especially for low-cost housing and shelters, give plastic waste a second life?“

Workstream Sustainable Building and Living, Focus on Plastics

The Workstream

The first workstream on polymer applications in construction has been initiated in 2018. To prepare the collaborative working process, a preliminary study with a thematic screening and strategic recommendations has been conducted by the ISC3 exploring the challenges and opportunities in this field. Based on this pre-study the ISC3 triggered a dialogue process to engage with stakeholders from different sectors and to develop recommendations on the sustainable management of plastics in building and living as well as on potential fields for sustainable chemistry innovations. The series of workshops, online-surveys and stakeholder dialogues took place in 2019 and 2020.International experts from the private and public sectors as well as from academia and the civil society contributed to the report and reflected the different interests and expectations.

The Goals

  • to transform chemical products in construction and living towards Sustainability;
  • to trigger a multi-stakeholder dialogue bringing industry, academia, international organisations and NGOs together raising awareness of the topic;
  • to collect the relevant information in the field and
  • to publish a report with precise recommendations for politics, industry and consumers;
  • to investigate the innovative fields and set the agenda for the near future;
  • to give impulses for the research and entrepreneurship (connected to ISC3 Global Start Up Service);
  • to show the potentials for the Sustainable Chemistry regarding SDGs and Agenda 2030;

The Leading Questions

  • How to drive construction products towards sustainability in sense of SDGs?
  • What are the most relevant innovative areas and potentials for Sustainable Chemistry in the field of Building, Living and Plastics?

The Workshops

  • Resilience & Urbanisation at AchemAsia, Shanghai, PR China, 21 May 2019
  • Resilient Cities 2019, interactive stand at the ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) conference Bonn, Germany, 26 - 28 June 2019
  • Affordable Housing & Urbanisation at Nairobi Innovation Week, Nairobi, Kenya, 12 June 2019
  • Protection of Health and the Environment at SBE 2019, Graz, Austria, 13 September 2019
  • Energy & Resources in Building Lifecycle at Green Build 2019, Atlanta, USA, 22 November 2019

The Report

The role of plastic materials in construction has become indispensable in the past decades with regard to the global megatrends urbanisation, climate, health, environment and affordable housing. Plastics have been very attractive for their specific properties, easy handling, availability, and low price. Both new and recycled from waste, they can play a major role in sustainable development if managed well. ISC3 has coordinated a study in which experts from science, public authorities, NGOs, and industry address various questions around ‘Sustainability of plastics as building materials’.  

The report is the final document in the workstream lead by ISC3 during 2019/20 consisting of a preliminary study on polymers, a multi-stakeholder dialogue, international thematic workshops, and conferences as well as interviews, online surveys, and contributions by experts from the field. The report takes regional perspectives into account. Stakeholders from China, Germany, Kenia, UK, and the USA contributed to it. Three big topics are highlighted in the report: the global megatrends urbanisation, resilience, and affordable housing (Chapter 2), protection of human health and the environment (Chapter 3) and resource demand and recycling (Chapter 4). In the last Chapter, ISC3 derived and compiled specific recommendations for decision makers.

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