Is Insulation Recyclable?

Many people have their homes insulated; they want to keep the temperature of their home constant without the furnace running in winter or the air conditioner running in summer. Having good home insulation can also help you reduce your energy bills. At the same time, making your home comfortable all year long.

Although home insulation does not need to be replaced regularly because they last for a long time, it is possible to have old and damaged insulation. If you moved into a new apartment, the insulation could be old, so the house is not warm in winter nor cool in summer.

If you happen to have old insulation around your home, you need to dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way properly. It would not be nice to clear out old insulation from your home and dispose of it improperly. You cannot have your home beautiful and comfortable, and the environment damaged because you disposed of waste improperly.

Can You Recycle Insulation?

There are over five different types of insulation used for homes. These insulations have different properties, characteristics, and uses. There is fiberglass insulation, foam insulation, cellulose insulation, denim insulation, mineral wool insulation, and natural fiber insulation.

All types of insulation can be recycled except cellulose insulation and foam insulation. Natural fiber, denim, and mineral wool insulation are one hundred percent recyclable. They are the easiest insulations to recycle. Fiberglass can be recycled, but many recycling companies do not recycle it.

Foam insulation is not recyclable because it contains benzene and petroleum. Foam insulation is also known as expanded polystyrene (EPS). It is ninety-five percent air, so it is not cost-effective to store. EPS is porous, making it very difficult to clean. It is of no use trying to recycle a material that uses more energy than you save.

On the other hand, cellulose insulation is one of the most environmentally friendly insulation materials, but the only disadvantage is that it cannot be recycled. Cellulose contains chemicals, fire-retardant materials combined with recycled paper. The chemicals in cellulose insulation cannot be removed, so recycling it is almost impossible.

Natural fiber insulation is produced from different natural materials, including straw, sheep’s wool, cotton, and hemp. Most of the natural materials used to produce natural fiber insulation have been recycled and treated to be mold, insect, and fire-resistant. Cotton insulation is produced from eighty-five percent recycled cotton and fifteen percent plastic fibers.

To manufacture denim insulation, old jeans and offcuts of denim residue during the production of jeans are used. To make denim insulation, the denim is first shredded, then it is treated with chemicals to make them mold-resistant and flame retardant. Before the material is shaped and baked, a bonding agent is added. The product is wound into rolls that would be installed as insulation.

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Slag/stone and molten glass is used in the production of mineral wool insulation; the mixture is spun into a fiber-like structure that creates properties no other insulation materials possess. There are two types of mineral wool insulation, stone wool, and glass wool.

The combination of slag or inorganic rock, thermosetting resin binder, and oil results in glass wool insulation. Glass wool insulation is made from limestone, recycled glass or sand, and soda ash. Although mineral wool insulation is produced from inorganic materials, they are still recyclable.

Fiberglass insulation is produced from glass, the same glass used to manufacture drinking glasses and windows. Fiberglass insulation can be recycled, but only a few recycling companies with the necessary equipment recycle it. There is little demand for recycled fiberglass, so the production of fiberglass is increased.

Is Insulation Flammable?

There is a question everyone who wants to insulate their homes ask, is insulation flammable? It is important to know if the insulation you want is flammable or inflammable. This will inform your decision and choice of insulation materials for your home.

Although all insulation materials are treated with chemicals to make them fire-resistant, some insulation materials are still combustible. The only naturally inflammable insulation materials are fiberglass, denim, and mineral wool insulations. However, the facings used on fiberglass, denim, and mineral wool insulations are combustible.

These three insulation materials, fiberglass, denim, and mineral wool, are fireproof, so they do not have to be treated with fire retardants. These insulation materials do not lose their fire-resistant properties as they age, so you can trust that they will still be inflammable after a long time.

However, the best inflammable insulation material is fiberglass. The fact that fiberglass is inflammable does not mean it will not melt. Fiberglass can withstand temperatures of up to 540° Celsius (1000° Fahrenheit) before it melts.

Denim insulation is also a good inflammable insulation material. During the process of producing denim insulation, the denim is always treated with an EPA-approved solution that contains borate to increase the fire-resistance rating of denim insulation. The material becomes unaffected by exposure to severe external fires, and it will not contribute to the spread of fire.

Mineral wool insulation does not conduct heat, it is completely non-combustible, and it can withstand temperatures of up to 1000° Celsius (1832° Fahrenheit). This impressive fire-resistant quality makes mineral wool the preferred insulation material for high-risk, critical applications, like petrochemical refineries and offshore oil rigs.

Cellulose insulation is more flammable than other insulation materials because it is produced from paper. During the production of cellulose insulation, the product is always treated with fire retardants to meet federal, state, and local fire safety measures. Cellulose insulation can withstand temperatures of up to 350° Celsius.

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When cellulose insulation burns, it burns from the bottom up, and it burns at a low temperature that even thermal imaging cameras would not be able to pick up heat traces. On the other hand, foam insulation is less flammable than cellulose insulation, and it can withstand temperatures of up to 700° Fahrenheit.

When foam insulation is exposed to temperatures of 700° Fahrenheit, it will take about thirty minutes to become flammable. Natural fiber insulation is also flammable. Although treated with fire-retardants, they are still combustible because they are produced from organic materials. However, they can withstand extreme temperatures for up to three hours.

Is Insulation Toxic?

One essential thing to know before installing insulation in your home is if it is safe. The safety of the insulation materials is in two ways; is it safe for you, and does it pose any threat to the environment. You need to note this because you reside in an environment. If you use products that harm the environment, you will also be harmed in the long run.

All insulation materials except denim insulation are toxic. And when exposed to these materials, they have adverse effects. The safest insulation material is denim insulation. It does not release any irritant fiber into the air, making it safe to breathe around. It is completely eco-friendly; it does not pose any threat to the environment.

Mineral wool insulation poses some threats; when the fiber breaks off and becomes airborne, it can cause health problems when inhaled. The fibers are respiratory irritants, so they can cause discomfort to your respiratory organs when you inhale them. This is the reason the installers of mineral wool insulation wear protective clothing. Mineral wool insulation is neither sustainable, green, or environmentally friendly.

Foam insulation can cause asthma and other breathing problems and skin and eye irritation to a person exposed to it before it has been fully cured. Foam insulation is one of the most toxic insulation materials, and you should stay clear of it until it is fully cured. If you are using foam insulation, you need to ensure it is installed properly and fully cured.

When half-cured foam insulation is exposed to the environment, toxins are released into the air, making the air toxic to breathe for humans, animals, and plants. As surprising as it would sound, natural fiber insulation is toxic, and you should not come in contact with it.

Cotton and wool are too coarse, so they are treated with additives like boric acid to reduce flammability and repel insects. Ammonium sulfate is also added as a fire-retardant. The raw material is safe, but the end product is toxic. It can irritate the eyes, throat, nose, and skin if ingested. Natural fiber insulation is not toxic to the environment.

Perhaps the most toxic insulation material is fiberglass insulation. It is known to cause skin irritation when it comes in contact with the skin; it can also cause respiratory irritation when the fibers and particles are inhaled. There is evidence that fiberglass can also cause cancer, although there is no definite proof it can cause cancer in humans.

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Most fiber insulation materials have a low impact on the environment. Cellulose insulation contains sodium borate, boric acid, and ammonium sulfate; these chemicals are used as fire retardants and are proven to be lethal to humans when ingested. Some of the effects of ingesting it are liver dysfunction, abdominal pain, kidney pain, lung dysfunction, and exfoliative dermatitis.

Can You Throw Away Insulation?

If you have just replaced the insulation in your home, the question you have is how to dispose of it. You might think of throwing it away, but if you are an environmentally conscious person, you will search for the best and less impactful way to dispose of them.

You cannot throw insulation away; you have to dispose of it properly. There are waste management companies you can take the insulation to for disposal. However, you may be required to pay a disposal and handling fee. There are disposable sites where you can dispose of insulations. The National Insulation Association is on the verge of developing new methods to recycle old insulations.

What Can You Do With Old Insulation?

If you have old insulation, the thoughts you would be having are what you can do with it and how you can dispose of it. A good way of getting rid of old items is by upcycling them. But, not every old item can be upcycled. Old insulation cannot be upcycled; you cannot use old insulation for anything.

1. New Insulation

The only thing you can do with old insulation is to reuse them as insulation. However, you can only reuse fiberglass, mineral wool, and cellulose insulation. If the insulation is still in good shape, it can be reused and repurposed. This can only be done by professionals, so you should not try to remove or install insulations.

2. Recycle The Insulation

Another thing you can do with old insulation is to recycle it. After the insulation has been disassembled, it should be packed together and deposited at a recycling center. The only insulations that can be recycled are natural fiber, denim, and mineral wool insulation. If you have fiberglass, cellulose, or foam insulation, you should deposit them at the waste disposal centers.

Conclusion

One thing everyone should endeavor to do is to dispose of waste products properly. With the deteriorating state of the environment, we should not worsen the situation and make the environment uninhabitable. We developed this blog post to show you the impact of insulation on humans and the environment. So, relax, and read up.

References:

https://www.ojinc.com/blog/recycling-reusing-insulation

https://www.buildinggreen.com/feature/cellulose-insulation-depth-look-pros-and-cons

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/sheeps-wool-insulation/

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.