By Flora Zhao
Geosynthetics, as an important category of industrial textiles, are widely used in water conservancy, highways, railways, ports, construction, etc., and play an important role in national infrastructure construction and the development of the national economy.
“Industrial textiles, owing to high technology, wide application, strong driving effect, and large market potential, are becoming an important driving force for economic growth and transformation of China’s textile industry in the new era,” said Mr. Li Lingshen, vice president of China National Textile and Apparel Council and president of China Nonwovens and Industrial Textiles Association (CNITA). Moreover, as Mr. Pierre Wiertz, General Manager of EDANA, once stated that since the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative was launched, geotextiles are even more topical and promising as a market segment. It is believed that the global geosynthetics industry will usher in a new round of development opportunities.
To explore the future sustainable development of geosynthetics and keep abreast of the latest developments in geosynthetics in the world, the second edition of the EurAsian Geosynthetics Symposium (EAGS 2019) was convened on November 18th to 19th in Beijing, China, which was organized by China Nonwovens and Industrial Textiles Association (CNITA) and EDANA, supported by International Geosynthetics Society (IGS), Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), and co-organized by Tiandingfeng Holdings Co. Ltd., Hongxiang New Geo-Material Co. Ltd., Taian Road Engineering Materials Co. Ltd., Hock Technology Co. Ltd., Weifang Tuowang Industrial Co., and Shandong Yibo Yangguang Engineering Materials Ltd.
Focusing on development opportunities, market analysis, technical research, engineering case analysis, testing standards and methods, the symposium is a unique networking event attracting leading decision makers from across the geosynthetics supply chain, from raw materials to buyers and users of geosynthetics, with specific reference to Greater Europe, including Russia and Asia. In addition, a tabletop exhibition was organized to facilitate networking between participants and companies representatives.
Sustainability comes as a most focused session
In preparation for EAGS 2019, the organizer EDANA, together with their staff and scientific advisers, visited more conferences the year before more than for the first edition. According to Mr. Pierre Wiertz, compared to the previous, it is not much differently set in terms of content; however, this year the symposium was featured with more focused sessions on sustainability and new standards. One great improvement was the connection with the ISO TC 221 annual meetings to be held the following two days, which welcomed experts in this field from 30 member states and 15 observer countries. This conjunction was cost-effective and time efficient.
The topic sustainability is in accord with one of the key areas of the Sustainability Vision 2030 developed by EDANA which combines the most prominent topics of the materiality matrix with key United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for the industry.
During the symposium, sustainability was a concerned topic in many reports. To name a few as examples. Mr. Nelson Chou, professor of National Taiwan University/chair of Taiwan Geosynthetics Association illustrated the sustainable applications of geosynthetics through a large number of examples. Besides, he also evaluated the application effect of geosynthetics based on the sustainable engineering index in terms of risk mitigation, ecology, carbon emissions reduction, energy conservation, waste reduction, durability, benefit / function, landscape and creativity. Compared with traditional engineering technology, it proves that geosynthetics have great sustainable development prospects in terms of civil engineering, water conservancy and environment. Mr. Chen Qi, Chairman of Shandong Yibo Yangguang Engineering Materials Co. Ltd. shared the technology and application of HDPE geomembrane in the environmental protection industry. He also believed that for the construction of environmental protection industry, geosynthetics have played an irreplaceable role in recent years.
Mr. Matthias Maisner, an engineer at BAW, stated that since geotextile filters in waterways are always in contact with soil, groundwater and surface water, and each fiber can affect leaching performance. Improper use of geotextiles may result in the formation of micro-plastics. In order to test and evaluate the release of hazardous materials into soil and water, the Dynamic Surface Leaching Test was developed. According to Mr. Li Junqi from Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, China’s sponge city construction aims to achieve water safety, water environment, water resources and water ecology through ecosystem protection and restoration. Mr. Robert Lozano from Reinforced Earth believes that choosing a high-performance backfill with a geosynthetic or metal reinforcement layer to form a more optimized combination layer can effectively improve the service life of the composite product. Responsible end of life is also one of the four key areas of the Sustainability Vision 2030.
However, in terms of sustainability, Mr. Pierre Wiertz emphasized that importantly we have to pay attention to the way we use geosynthetics in protecting the environment, making sure that it is the right one to conform with its own environmental impacts, so as to be consistent in the ability of the geosynthetics to stop pollutants from contaminating.
Unified International standards are a trend, also a must
As a matter of fact, the proper use of geosynthetics is indispensable from standards. China is the largest producer and consumer of geosynthetics in the world nowadays. The establishment of corresponding standards is of crucial significance. Mr. Daniele Cazzuffi, IGS Past President / CESI, confirmed the development of the industry in China, saying that “As Mr. Sun Ruizhe, CNTAC President, said during the symposium that it is an important technical collaboration, and also as Mr. Pierre Wiertz mentioned in his speech that for the first time in China there is a meeting of ISO on geosynthetics. It is very important that China is now in the loop of technical collaboration. From the reports we can also see the improvement that China has made in standard system, for example, in Mr. Li Junqi’s report, in the lower part of some slides there are lots of different international references, which means that China is as all other countries in the same level of knowledge.”
However, he explicated that he saw a long list of Chinese standards in one speaker’s report, for which he believes it is good but emphasizes that we have to connect the list of Chinese standards to the existing ISO standards. Because for example the standards applied in Africa are ISO standards but not Chinese ones. The process to achieve any international standard is very long, perhaps very boring, but at the end they converge, and every one is converging into one single system. It is OK to have the list of Chinese standards, but for each of them, you have to connect it with the existing ISO system.
Mr. Peter Atchison, Chairman of ISO Geosynthetics Committee, also pointed out that International standards are texts that contain practical advice and best practices to provide a unified solution to global problems.
Mr. Daniele Cazzuffi said, “Compared to 40, 30 and also 20 years ago, the competition between manufacturers in terms of price is now too sharp. Based on my knowledge of market, if someone only wants to gives a commercial approach, in few years will disappear. The key solution is cooperating technically by demonstrating that the solutions given by the geosynthetic engineering are far better than alternative traditional technologies not only in terms of durability and cost, but also in terms of sustainability and reducing the CO2 consumption.”
For the standard system of geosynthetics in China, Mr. Li Lingshen introduced that 39 national standards in the field of geology are mainly in the textile field; nearly 50 industry standards, involving textile, water conservancy, transportation, railway, urban construction and other fields, are basically able to meet the requirements for the production, application, testing and evaluation of domestic geosynthetics. He believed that the industry will see a better standard system and application specifications, a higher concentration rate, and a healthy and sustainable development.
The formulation of standards is conducive to improving product quality, standardizing design guidelines, and forming a global consensus of experts. Standard work is to the benefit of promoting the healthy and safe development of the industry, exerting an important impact on global trade.
Geosynthetics enjoy huge potential applications
Under the Belt and Road Initiative, nowadays the demand for geosynthetics will be greater than ever all over the world. Though the largest consumer of geosynthetics in the world, China saw development of geotextiles only from 1990s when the scale of enterprises was relatively small, and the product grades were also low. However, today the companies have been enjoying high-grade products with rich varieties.
According to Mr. Li Lingshen, in 2018, the total fiber processing of industrial textiles accounted for 28% of the textile industry, and geotextiles accounted for 6.76% of industrial textiles. Since 2013, China’s geotextiles production has grown at an average annual rate of 9.28%, reaching 1,062,400 tons in 2018. At present, there are about 500 geotextiles companies in China, mainly small and medium-sized enterprises producing non-woven geotextiles. In the future, China’s geotextiles will continue to grow by about 7.5%, and the value increase will become an important driving force for the growth of China’s geotextiles industry. Mr. Todd Berger, Senior Editor of Geosynthetics magazine, also stated that geotextiles and geomembranes have a huge market in North America, which currently has 40 to 50 manufacturers in North America; in 2019 U.S. / Canadian geosynthetics market in 2019 sees 2.8 billion USD, an increase of 4% to 5% compared to 2018.
Innovations get together for a better future
During the symposium, various innovations were shared by a majority of experts from different countries for common development. Mr. Pietro Pezzano from Maccaferri introduced a new type of drainage geotechnical composite. Erol Guler from Bogazici University focused on several innovative solutions for geosynthetic reinforcements. Tian Dingfeng Holdings Co., Ltd. invested 170 million RMB to build a 10,000-ton production line, and achieved the first industrialized production of high-strength polypropylene spunbond needle-punched geotextiles in China. Italy Farè has developed advanced technology for the production of PP spunbond nonwoven geotextiles for reference by nonwovens manufacturers. Han-Yong Jeon from Inha University in South Korea introduced the latest technological advances and trends in geosynthetics used in landfills. Ingo Mählmann from Oerlikon introduced new technologies for the production of polypropylene geotextiles in China.
This symposium will integrate resources between cultures and nations. It will build a bridge for Asia, Europe, and the other regions in the world as well as a platform for the industry to better communicate with each other, promoting common sustainable development of the industry.