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From non-wovens to innovative and high-quality building materials: an interview with Norbert Wagner, Chairman of the Geosynthetics Industry Association (IVG) and former Managing Director of TenCate Geosynthetics Germany. 

What were the beginnings of geosynthetics? 

Norbert Wagner: Non-wovens were initially used for furniture or for the back of carpets. At that time, the idea was to utilize plant capacities and find other applications. That’s how the idea came about to use non-wovens for reinforcing and separating in flooring. We started to try to produce geotextiles at that time – and that was the beginning. 

What was the further market development like?   

Norbert Wagner: The market development can be described briefly and succinctly: Initially geotextiles were a completely special construction method. They then became standardized construction methods and are now innovative, sustainable, high-quality and forward-looking due to the increasing importance of sustainability. 

Geosynthetics replace natural, non-renewable raw materials and reduce CO2 emissions and microplastic waste.

Norbert Wagner, Chairman IVG and former Managing Director TenCate Geosynthetics Germany 2004 – 2016 

Why are geobuilding materials sustainable from your point of view?

Norbert Wagner: Geobuilding materials replace natural, non-renewable raw materials such as gravel, crushed stone or cement. Concrete, after all, is a very tricky subject as far as sustainability is concerned anyway. The main approach to using geobuilding materials is: Non-renewable raw materials are conserved, the transport volume of the building materials is significantly reduced – and with it, the environmental impact of the CO2 emissions from trucks and the microplastic pollution caused by the fine dust produced by tire abrasion.

We can demonstrate that, for example, a 1km stretch of canal would require around 1,000 truckloads of mineral building materials, which can be replaced by just one truckload of geobuilding materials. This results in an incredible number of benefits in terms of CO2 emissions and microplastics from tire abrasion.
There is now strong evidence to support that. 

Do you see any other advantages in terms of sustainability?

Norbert Wagner: Yes. When it comes to sustainability one significant advantage of a construction design using geotextiles is the extension of the service life. In asphalt pavements in road construction in particular, the service life can be greatly extended due to crack bridging. This extends the life of the asphalt pavement by a factor of three. 

How do you see the issue of microplastics in geosynthetics? 

Norbert Wagner: Hardly anyone in civil society is aware that in more than 90% of the applications for geosynthetics, no microplastics can be produced by design. In almost all applications, the number of construction material transports and thus the microplastics produced by tire abrasion, are drastically reduced, and natural, non-renewable raw materials such as gravel, sand and crushed stone are conserved to a considerable extent. 

Thanks for the interview.  

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Norbert Wagner, Chairman IVG and former Managing Director TenCate Germany 2004 – 2016 

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