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Insulation: Infinitely Recyclable

In creating a sustainable future greater energy efficiency must be complemented by a less wasteful approach to our natural resources.

The building sector can lead the way to a greener future. If it is to do so, greater recycling and better waste management must be an integral part of the move towards very low energy buildings.

Mineral wool insulation products set the standard for sustainable construction. Mineral wool’s benefits are impressive – although energy is used to produce mineral wool, a typical mineral wool product can save over its lifetime, 300 times the energy needed in its manufacture, transportation and disposal.

When it comes to recycling, the insulation production process is continually being refined to reduce its environmental impact and the figures are equally impressive.

It starts with reducing process waste. Manufacturing processes have been re-engineered to incorporate production scrap back into the primary production process, allowing 75% of glass wool production waste and 66% of stone wool waste to be recycled. In the case of some plants the recycling goes up to 100% of all production waste.

The use of recycled primary raw materials, such as cullet (crushed glass) for glass wool, dramatically improves the carbon footprint of the production process, and secondary raw materials from other industries in stone wool, doubly benefit the environment by minimising waste and reducing consumption of primary raw materials.

Recycling consumes less energy than using primary raw materials; for each metric ton of cullet used, 500 kilograms of CO2 emissions are prevented. Glass is a material that can be recycled indefinitely. In some plants recycled glass accounts for 80% of the raw materials used

Once a building is to be refurbished or demolished, its insulation can be recycled. Mineral wool insulation can be easily and safely removed and either re-used in another building or reprocessed to make new insulation. An increasing proportion of stone wool insulation is recycled material in the form of briquettes.

Stone wool insulation utilises industrial by-products which would otherwise be destined for landfill.

Insulation producers are constantly innovating to improve the energy efficiency and environmental impact of their manufacturing processes. Furnace performance has been greatly enhanced by investing in equipment from filters, pre-heaters, after-burners and other cleaning and collection systems.

Complementing their strong commitment to recycling Eurima members are successfully targeting waste reduction and energy efficiency to ensure that mineral wool continues to be the leading and most sustainable insulation on the market.