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How to go zero waste - Knauf Insulation's pioneering plan

By Knauf Insulation
March 18, 2021

Every year Europe’s mountain of waste gets higher and higher. Annual contributions from manufacturing, households, workplaces, construction and demolition add up to a total of 5.2 tonnes of waste for every person living in Europe.

It has to stop. And as today is Global Recycling Day this is a good time to reflect on what Knauf Insulation is doing to reduce its environmental impact and how the company, our customers and our industry can deliver a circular economy by learning to do more with less.

Across our company, we have reduced our waste to landfill by 67.3% in the 10 years since 2010, but we realise we have to be more ambitious.


Zero waste to landfill

Now as part of our sustainability strategy For A Better World, we have committed to send zero waste to landfill, reduce the environmental impact of our packaging and find more ways to recycle, reuse and reduce resource use.

Our customers and our industry are also facing pressure from the public and policymakers. Construction and demolition accounts for 36% of all waste in the European Union and many countries have introduced high fees for landfill while introducing strict measures to prevent certain types of demolition waste being dumped entirely.


Recycling is a moral imperative

Vincent Briard, our Group Sustainability Director, says: “In the past delivering a circular economy was regarded as a ‘nice to have’. Today it is a moral and business imperative. Pressure is increasing and companies are waking up to the fact that if they don’t change quickly themselves, regulation and public demand will force change.”

Pascale Bruwier, our Global Category Manager Packaging, is leading cross-functional projects to reduce virgin plastic packaging use as part of our For A Better World sustainability strategy. Working closely with suppliers, we are exploring effective and innovative ways of moving towards a more circular packaging supply chain.

Pascale adds: “Global Recycling Day reminds us that resources are finite and we all need to reduce our environmental impact. And, of course, this is a message that we are keeping central to everything we do at Knauf Insulation — every day of the year.”

Pascale Bruwier, Global Category Manager Packaging Knauf Insulation

So how is Knauf Insulation doing? What do we need to do better? And how can we help our customers?

  • In Germany we have a RESULATION scheme which takes back Rock Mineral Wool residue from construction sites and feeds it back into our production to make new insulation and a scheme that enables Glass Mineral Wool scrap to be converted into ceiling tiles.
  • In the Netherlands, France and Belgium, we are exploring a range of pilot projects to bring back off-cuts of Glass Mineral Wool from our construction customers and even demolition sites and recycle them at our plants. We are still in the early stages of development but we want the projects to be scalable across our company.
  • By 2025 as part of our sustainability strategy we have committed to using more than 65% of external glass — used bottles and window glass for example — in the manufacture of our Glass Mineral Wool.
  • In the UK we have partnered with Veolia to build a used glass facility at our St Helens plant to clean, sort and refine 60,000 tonnes of used bottles and jars into the glass cullet we need for our Glass Mineral Wool.

  • In Russia we worked with the local municipality in Stupino to introduce bottle recycling points that collect 350 tonnes of used glass every year for our local plant to transform into Glass Mineral Wool.

  • In Germany, material dust, produced during the manufacture of Heraklith Wood Wool multilayer panels in Simbach can now be separated and sent to our other plant at St Egidien to be recycled as new Rock Mineral Wool.
  • In the Netherlands we have introduced a pilot scrap recycling initiative for modular building companies who use our Glass Mineral Wool. For a small fee the cut-offs are picked up and recycled into bricks and tiles.
  • Across our company we have committed to use more than 25% external recycled material for our Rock Mineral Wool production. At most of our Rock Mineral Wool plants we reuse internal production waste by transforming it into ‘bricks’ that can be fed back into production but we want to increase waste from customers’ construction sites.
  • In Slovakia, our Nová Bańa plant sends zero waste to landfill as does our Krupka site in the Czech Republic.
  • In Slovenia and Serbia our plants take back significant volumes of Rock Mineral Wool cut-offs from construction sites and local panel producers to avoid sending the material to landfill.
  • We are committed to using less plastic packaging. Already we compress a lot of our insulation to allow us to send more packs per truck — for example 5,800m2 of 50mm Mineral Plus can be delivered in one truck with an 80m3 capacity compared to 3.6 trips need for Rock Mineral Wool.
  • Compression is good, but not ambitious enough. That is why we have committed to reducing our virgin plastic film packaging by more than 25% and where possible taking back up to 50% of plastic film from our customers for recycling.
Recycling waste
  • Finally, we already provide a service in the Netherlands and UK where we collect and reuse customer pallets and this scheme will be launched in France in April. Meanwhile, in Turkey in 2020, our Eskisehir plant reused a total of 6,270 wooden pallets equal to 87 tonnes of timber.


Would you like to learn how Sustainable products from Knauf Insulation can bring you more Green Building Rating System points?

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