Recycling construction materials

Recycling insulation from construction projects


Most insulation waste comes from demolition and refurbishment projects. The amount of waste generated during installation depends on the type of insulation. Insulation materials include:

  • glass and stone wool
  • polystyrene
  • sheep's wool
  • spray foam
  • polyurethane
  • fibreboard

The main causes of insulation wastage are:

  • over ordering and disposal of unused materials
  • ordering the wrong insulation type or thickness
  • over-designed projects
  • poor pre-formed design
  • poor storage and handling

Recycling options for insulation

The options for recycling waste insulation produced on your construction site include:

  • direct reuse of off-cuts
  • returning materials through take-back schemes offered by manufacturers
  • compressed stone wool ceiling tile manufacture
  • reclamation and reprocessing after removing impurities such as screws and nails

However, there are some limitations on recycling insulation including:

  • difficulties of recycling insulation from demolition projects which can be contaminated, eg by mortar, wood, bitumen or asbestos
  • greenhouse gas emissions from breaking rigid urethane insulation
  • lack of specialised recycling facilities
  • lack of end markets
  • low value of insulation material
  • low-density waste means large areas are needed for waste storage

Making changes to your site operations

You can make simple yet effective changes to your site's operations to reduce insulation waste and allow more waste to be recycled by:

  • training staff in the handling of materials
  • separating insulation waste to avoid damage
  • selecting a secure storage area to protect materials from accidental and weather damage and storing off-cuts and partially used rolls for reuse
  • keeping records to prevent over ordering and minimise stock held on site
  • recovering materials and not sending them to landfill
  • improved transport procedures to reduce damage to materials

Potential end uses for recovered insulation

You can use insulation waste in a number of construction applications and materials including:

  • refurbishment projects - eg glass and stone wool batt insulation can be incorporated into concrete blocks or fibreglass board
  • fibreglass ceiling tiles
  • voluntary sector waste projects

You can find licensed waste sites to recycle or dispose of insulation.