RECYCLED MATERIALS in INSULATION
Builders use insulation to slow the conduction of heat within a building or home. Insulation plays an important role in conserving energy and provides an efficient use for recycled materials.
Depending on the type, insulations are currently made with a range of recycled materials.
Batt and Roll Insulation: This type of insulation is the most commonly used. Batt insulation mostly consists of flexible fibers, such as fiberglass, mineral wood, cotton, and sheep’s wool. Batt and roll insulation are widely available in a variety of sizes, making it easy to adjust the insulation between wall studs, rafters, and floor joists.
Concrete Block Insulation: Builders use concrete blocks for foundation and walls of some homes. Because heat is easily conducted through the blocks, insulation either fills or incases the concrete. Though it is more effective to insulate the surface of the blocks, some manufacturers use foam or polystyrene fillers to fill the inside.
Foam Board and Rigid Foam Insulation: Made from a variety of materials, foam boards are more rigid than batt insulation and can insulate roofs, walls, and foundations. Because of findings regarding ozone-depleting chemicals in polyurethane, polyisocyanurate, and extruded polystyrene, manufacturers continue to search for environmentally responsible materials with which to make foam.
Loose Fill and Blown Insulation: Small particles of a variety of materials, including cellulose, fiberglass, and mineral wool, are used in loose fill insulation to easily conform to tight spaces. This type of insulation provides the most opportunity for use of recycled materials.
Sprayed Foam Insulation: Liquid foam insulation can be sprayed, foamed, injected, or poured into place and provide an air-tight barrier for energy conservation. As with foam board insulation, manufacturers continue to develop foams with materials that do not contain harmful chemicals.
Reflective Insulation: Used most frequently and effectively in hot climates, reflective insulation uses foils, plastic films, and kraft paper to reflect heat away from attics and open living spaces.
Insulation provides an excellent use of recycled material. The materials below all consist of some post-consumer recyclable.
Cellulose: Used in loose fill insulation, cellulose is comprised mostly of recycled newspaper. Some manufacturers are improving their processing to produce finer, cleaner fibers, which are more effective and extend the use of the recycled product.
Fiberglass: Depending on the manufacturer, fiberglass contains 20 to 30 percent recycled glass material, with most of that material coming from post-consumer bottles. Select manufacturers boast 90 percent recycled glass content.
Polystyrene is made with 50 percent recycled plastic resin, with much of the resin coming from post-consumer recyclables. Polystyrene can be recycled and used again for the same purpose.
Radiant Barriers used in reflective insulation and foil facings of batt insulation contains mostly recycled aluminum.
Cotton, used in batt and loose fill insulation, is often favored against fiberglass, which can be an irritant. Select manufacturers produce cotton insulation from approximately 95 percent recycled fiber.
RECYCLING & REUSING INSULATION
Insulation usually reaches its end life because of changes or removal of the building or home, not due to defective use of the insulation itself. The accumulation of dust and dirt restricts insulation from being recycled and made into a product other than insulation.
However, builders can be proactive to preserve the reusability of insulation, should it have to be removed. Installing layer of sheathing behind the insulation may allow it to be reused after removal.
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