How we are tackling embodied carbon

Knauf Insulation delivers a truckload of benefits to customers

By 2025 we aim to cut the embodied carbon of our products by 15%. Embodied carbon is the CO2 generated at every stage in our products’ life cycle. We have a long way to go, but over the years we have achieved a great deal.

RAW MATERIALS

Extraction, transformation, transportation, storage
Approximate CO2 generated at this stage: 15%.

How we are lowering our material emissions

Using recycled materials such as used glass requires less energy and emits less CO2 than processing and extracting virgin materials. We believe that as a minimum, 65% of our Glass Mineral Wool should be made up of recycled glass with an ambition to raise that percentage higher, providing we can find the right quality cullet from used bottles and other glass. For our Rock Mineral Wool we are aiming for a minimum of 25% external recycled material.

  • Our plant at Nová Bana, Slovakia, already uses 22% external recycled material.
  • We choose suppliers close to sites. This matters in huge countries such as Russia where tonnes of carbon are generated by transporting vast distances. Rather than trucks, we have used railways in the Czech Republic and waterway deliveries for Illange, France.
  • At our UK St Helens site a partnership with leading resource management company Veolia led to the building of a facility which every year refines 60,000 tonnes of used glass into the high quality raw material we need for our insulation.
  • In Stupino, Russia, we set up a network of used collection points that provides 350 tonnes of used glass to our plant every year.

MANUFACTURING

Melting, fiberising, curing and packaging. 
Approximate CO2 generated at this stage: 65%

How we are lowering manufacturing emissions

Since 2009 we have cut energy use and emissions per cubic metre of product by 23% despite record levels of output.

  • Our UK plants St Helens and Cwmbran site have partnered with Siemens for an improvement programme which achieved energy savings of over 10,000 MWh/year with a yearly reduction of over 5,000 tonnes of carbon.
  • At Visé in Belgium we switched all lighting to LEDs marking an electricity gain of 3.5%. A total of 6,000 photovoltaic panels now contribute 2% of the plant’s energy and we plan to increase the number of panels by 5,000. We aim to install a wind turbine and an exchanger to recuperate fume energy to heat cullet.
  • New fans for the manufacturing process at our UK Queensferry plant helped considerably to reduce energy use.
  • At Škofja Loka, Slovenia our first furnace has already been changed from coke to natural gas, and plans are in the pipeline to change the other two.
  • Many of our plants, such as St Egidien in Germany, have energy load management systems that limit peak load and reduce the consumption of raw materials.
  • Replacing heating oil with gas at our Surdulica plant in Serbia reduced CO2 emissions by more than 20%.

DISTRIBUTION

Delivery, installation
Approximate CO2 generated at this stage: 17.5%

How we are lowering our distribution emissions

Improving plant allocation and distribution is vital. For instance, just reducing a distance from 1,000 km to 500 km can cut total embodied carbon by up to 3%.

  • We compress products to ensure fewer distribution trucks are needed. For example, 5,800 m2 of 50 mm Mineral Plus can be delivered in one 80 m3 truck rather than the 3.6 trucks required for our traditional Rock Mineral Wool.
  • On a 300 kg pallet of Glass Mineral Wool we need 7 kg of plastic packaging. Just recycling 30% of this plastic would cut the embodied carbon of our products by 1%. We are looking at ways to use less plastic.
  • 80% of the contractor trucks that work with our Surdulica plant in Serbia have low-emission EUR5 or EUR6 engines.
  • Our Glass Mineral Wool from Krupka in the Czech Republic is sent to Serbia by train — replacing 1,500 truck trips a year.
  • Trains are also used to send our products from Krupka to Bulgaria to supply the Greek market cutting the previous truck trips by up to 50%.
  • In Belgium we use 25.25 m ECO-COMBI trucks for haulage to the Dutch market. One ECO-COMBI can deliver up to 30 pallets of our Glass Mineral Wool (see image in the banner above). This enables us to transport the same quantity of product using 30% fewer standard trailers while cutting CO2 emissions by an estimated 20%.

END OF LIFE

Removal, landfill
Approximate CO2 generated at this stage: 2.5%

How we are lowering end-of-life emissions

We are exploring new ways to recycle insulation scrap from our production as well as construction and demolition sites rather than sending to landfill.

  • Construction and demolition waste accounts for 35% of all waste in Europe. We want to see demolition waste recycling programmes in place in five countries by 2025.
  • Already we are taking back construction cut-off from customers in the Netherlands, Germany and Slovenia. By 2025 we will take back 25% of the scrap generated by our customers on job sites wherever possible.

SAVING THE EMISSIONS OF AN ENTIRE COUNTRY

We know that 570 units of energy are saved for every unit of energy used to manufacture one of our typical Glass Mineral Wool products over its 50-year-use phase. But over the past decade our sites in Europe and North America have produced almost 14 million tonnes of Rock and Glass Mineral Wool – enough insulation to save more than the annual carbon emissions of Belgium.

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Annual Review 2020
Read our Annual Review 2020!

Read our Annual Review 2020!