Can insulation be recycled?

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Most types of insulation can be recycled. However, specific methods are required for materials like fibreglass, foam, and cellulose insulation.

Cellulose insulation, made from recycled paper, cannot be traditionally recycled due to the fire-retardant materials added. But it can be repurposed by professionals. Foam insulation, used in residential and commercial buildings, can be recycled at specific centres. But it is not recommended to place polystyrene products in yellow waste bins due to flammability.

Rockwool insulation, made from natural fibres, can be recycled and re-spun as long as it is still in good condition. Fibreglass insulation can be recycled, but grinding and shredding can damage the glass fibres. So it is recommended to contact a waste recycling plant to see if they have a specific fibreglass recycling bin.

How can you recycle home insulation?

Insulation allows your home to stay at a comfortable temperature all year round, reducing your heating and cooling bills. Most forms of insulation will last the lifetime of the house. However, you may be wondering whether, after its useful life, insulation can be recycled.

The short answer is that nearly all insulation materials can be recycled. However, specific recycling or reusing methods should be used for insulation materials such as fibreglass, foam, and cellulose insulation. 

Cellulose insulation

Cellulose insulation has a shallow carbon footprint as it is not only less energy-intensive to manufacture but is made from up to 85% recycled paper in the first place. However, cellulose insulation has fire-retardant materials added. Therefore, it cannot be recycled traditionally and must be taken to specific recycling centres.

Cellulose insulation has a lifespan of about 20 to 30 years, so if you are thinking about getting rid of it. However, you should repurpose it rather than let it go to a landfill (unless at a specific recycling centre).

Repurposing cellulose insulation is the best solution if its current use is served. However, it should be left to qualified professionals due to the required equipment and level of expertise. 

Foam insulation

In residential and commercial buildings, foam insulation as a spray-on or board is reusable. However, some recycling centres refuse to take polystyrene foam, which contains petroleum and benzene and is highly flammable. 

For this reason, it is also not advised to place polystyrene products into a yellow waste recycling bin. However, foam insulation can be taken to certain recycling centres that use specific recycling methods.

We suggest you contact your local council or recycling centre beforehand to ensure they are equipped to recycle polyurethane foam. Foam insulation can also be reused/repurposed if it is undamaged and in good condition. 

foam board insulation in bin
You can recycle foam board, depending on your council, recycling centre and its condition

Rockwool insulation

Insulation batts from durable natural fibres such as rock wool insulation can be recycled. These types of insulation are the most recyclable as they can be re-spun when their use has run out as long as they are still in good condition.

Although, like the other types of insulation, if you seek to repurpose it. We suggest contacting a certified professional. If you want to dispose of it, contact your local waste recycling plant to ensure they are willing to receive this product stream.  

As an example of waste disposal requirements, here is a specific model by the city of Newcastle in NSW outlining requirements for the disposal of Synthetic Mineral Fibres (SMF) such as fibreglass, rock wool and ceramic fibres (e.g. ceiling insulation batts or air conditioning ducting):

Fibreglass insulation

The best way to dispose of fibreglass insulation is through recycling. Although, grinding and shredding fibreglass can diminish the integrity of the glass fibres. Therefore, you should contact your nearest waste recycling plant and see whether they have a specific fibreglass recycling bin.

Suppose you want to repurpose your fibreglass insulation which might have been removed from one part of the home. To be used in another section, we suggest contacting a certified expert. It requires a certain level of experience to ensure the insulation’s longevity and that it is installed correctly. 

old fibreglass insulation
Fibreglass insulation is easily recycled or reused

What about using recycled insulation in my home? 

Each recycled insulation material’s cost and efficiency may vary. However, using insulation material again will lessen any adverse effects on the environment. Installing insulation is best left to experts because specific health & safety precautions will need to be undertaken. While seemingly easy to launch in a DIY fashion. Insulation is only as good as the materials and the quality of the installation. So our recommendation is to leave it to the experts.

Recycling fibreglass

Before you reuse fibreglass insulation, please double-check that the materials haven’t been tampered with. Moisture encourages bacteria and mould growth. As well as reduces the material’s capacity to perform its function.

You should also check whether the insulation has been excessively matted or squeezed. Fibreglass insulation, like cellulose insulation, is frequently created from recycled materials (usually glass). But to a lesser extent than cellulose. If you reuse fibreglass insulation, you’ll need to deal with specialists to assess the material, as they will have a lot of knowledge of this type of material.

Recycling polyurethane foam

Polyurethane foam residues can be reused in a variety of ways. Each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Physical recycling is one successful strategy in the short run due to its easy operation and active use. Chemical recycling is more difficult as no large-scale industrialised recycling is currently available. One environmentalist proposal is to phase out polyurethane foam from packaging and insulation.

Recycling cellulose 

Cellulose insulation comprises around 70 – 80% recycled newspaper and 20 – 30% fire-resistant materials. In addition, the manufacturing procedure for cellulose insulation uses less energy than most other insulation types.

Better still, cellulose insulation may be recycled again and used right on the job site. Nevertheless, you must entrust this procedure to qualified specialists. Repurposing cellulose insulation is a proper art form. It necessitates a high level of expertise as well as specialised equipment.

Recycling mineral wool

This form of insulation usually is made from recycled mineral materials. The level at which it can be reused will depend on the type of mineral wool used and the condition of the bats. After many years in use, they can become fragile and must be checked for suitability.

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