Supporting associations

Solibalsa: professional integration of people with a disability and recycling of Balsa off-cuts

Recycling of Balsa wood off-cuts from the water sports industry in order to create jobs at the ESAT des Herbiers in France following a circular economy logic.

Solibalsa: professional integration of people with a disability and recycling of Balsa off-cuts

Project leader
Handicap Travail Solidarité

Duration of the partnership


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The project and its challenges

The HTS (Handicap Travail Solidarité) association noted tha,t in France, the unemployment rate among people with a disability is twice that of the national average. In addition to their physical or mental disability, 500,000 people are faced with exclusion from the labour market and, consequently, exclusion from social activities. These disabilities also affect the structures that support people with disabilities. The need to update and offer viable new activities is essential for the permanence of these structures and the security of their jobs.

Constantly looking for new socially and environmentally responsible projects to develop, HTS decided to commit to an original new project in France and around the world in order to meet :
• the need to recycle balsa wood off-cuts from the water sports industry: these represent about 1,500 m3/year of waste with 800m3 in Vendée alone.
• the need of the ESAT des Herbiers in Vendée to develop an activity based on working with wood in order to secure jobs.

That is why the association launched its SoliBalsa recycling project.

Thus, HTS with the support of the Maisons du Monde Foundation aims to recycle balsa off-cuts, an exotic wood from South America used in boat building. The idea behind the project is to use the 800m3/year of off-cuts available which are currently burned to make plywood and laminated boards with a “balsa core”. These boards are then sold to customers from various sectors of activity in order, in the long-term, to secure about 50 jobs at the ESAT.

This sustainable and disability oriented solidarity project also includes aspects concerning information about waste, environmental protection, and disability which targets schoolchildren and the general public in the area.


The ESAT des Herbiers will welcome the direct beneficiaries in the production workshop with about fifty people working on this project.

This project will also benefit the general public and schoolchildren in the town of Les Herbiers.

The project’s assets

The association has managed to develop a short circuit for the production chain, from the collection of “balsa waste” from the partner shipbuilder to the work of the ESAT which is less than 3 km away. This will allow the project to become economically self-sufficient thanks to a reduction of costs in the medium-term.

This balsa wood off-cuts recycling project is unique in France and the world and was made possible following many technical and commercial feasibility studies led by experts and students from the Ecole Supérieur du Bois in Nantes.

We launched technical and economic feasibility studies for the SoliBalsa project two years ago. With the help of the ESB and its students, we managed to define a sustainable project which is perfectly adapted to the two major needs of almost all French people: the integration of all, and, in particular, people with a disability, and the setting up of a company based on the development of the circular economy with a view to reducing the environmental impacts of our way of life.
Thanks to the support of the Maisons du Monde Foundation, its employees, and its committed customers, the project is now able to enter its launch phase. On behalf of HTS, ESAT and its works, but also on behalf of more than 3,000 Balsa trees saved every year, we wish to extend you our sincere thanks.
Thank you and well done to all

Damien Demoor President of HTS

Project leader Handicap Travail Solidarité

Handicap Travail Solidarité (HTS) is a public interest association which works to develop the social, cultural, and professional integration of people with a disability; in particular people with major disabilities.
To that end, the association works on several projects and offers several services either directly to people with a disability, or by supporting the adapted and protected structures that employ them: Entreprises Adaptées - Adapted Enterprises (EA) and Etablissements et Services d’Aide par le Travail - Labour-Related Support Service Establishments (ESAT).
HTS’ actions are focused on three main activities:

- Create and/or preserve jobs for people with a disability via the development of new activities or sectors;
- Develop relations between EA-ESAT and students in order to raise awareness among these future decision-makers and strengthen the relationship between these adapted/protected sectors and higher education institutes/universities;
- Facilitate access to civic and cultural life for people with a disability.