Recycling of Used Rockwool

Rock wool insulation material is currently not being recycled after end of use, but just deposited, although a great potential exists for recycling and reuse in new insulation products, and the waste volumes of used rock wool materials are therefore rising globally, due to demolition of still larger buildings with high shares of insulation. In 2006, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency released a report that concluded it would be technically possible to recycle a significant proportion (90%) of the collected and sorted rock wool. Enviso, in cooperation with Rock Wool A/S, NCC Roads A/S, and Recycling Centre Horsens, is testing how to establish an economically viable recycling system.

The recycling concept will primarily include the reprocessing of used rock wool to new commercial rock wool products. However, the initial research on used rock wool materials also shows other potentials, and the partnership is therefore seeking to find other alternatives as well, for example as substation in production of road materials. The latter could lead to a substantial reduction in production of new asphalts, and would include severe energy savings. This may be relevant in cases where the used rock wool would not be able to meet the required specifications for new product standards, or when the rock wool manufacturers, due to time constraints, do not have the possibility to absorb all recycled materials.
The product is currently being developed in a Danish context, but the objective is to adjust the product to foreign market requirements, in order to export the concept for recycling of rock wools. This would be important to the Danish company Rock Wool, who is a global market player in insulation.

The demonstrate phase includes several steps. The first phase, which started in January 2011, focuses on analysing the drivers and barriers to the developed recycling concept in the Danish market, as well as in United States and other foreign markets. The second phase, with start date in September 2011, kicked off the development and testing of the technologies for separating the used rock wool materials, followed by purification and compression. In parallel with this, the involved companies are analysing and developing the logistical solutions for Denmark and selected foreign markets, in order to be able to introduce the technology as a commercial product. The last phase is scheduled to start in April 2012, which will involve real life demonstrations and testing of the recycled rock wool materials, both as new building insulation as well as a material for substitution in road materials.

Barriers and Drivers

A key challenge is to develop the recycling concept,  and the involved equipment, to such a level that the new insulation product can meet the market standards and compete with existing products. The main driver for Enviso is to deliver a competitive product, which can ensure the export of the recycling concept and technology for foreign markets. For Rock Wool A/S and NCC roads, the proejct is, among others, a good opportunity to develop products with greener life cycles, and thereby beneift their company images in the market.

Economic Performance

The project is still in the testing and demonstration phase, but the objective is that the developed equipment and recycling concepts can be sold under license by Enviso Group A / S, who is a smaller group that specializes in demolition and recycling of various materials. For Rockwool A / S the aim is to strengthen the company's green image and competitiveness, by providing a possiblity for recycling their their used materials.

Social Performance

The project can develop new employment opportunities, in particular in Denmark.

Environmental Impact

The main environmental impact, would be reduced greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation of climate change. The tested technology can lead to energy savings at several levels. Besides the most obvious benefit, which would be energy efficient buildings, the recycled insulation product could demonstrate to have a more energy efficient life cycle, compared to new products where extra raw materials and processing of these will be required. In the case of NCC Road and their asphalt production, there would be similar benefits, by substituting the input of raw materials in the asphalt productions. At the end of the life cycle, the project reduces the production of construction waste, which would need to be landfilled.

Further Information

The project is being developed with support from the danish "innovation fund":

The partnership consist of:

Enviso Group A/S:

Rock Wool A/S:

NCC Roads A/S:

Recycling Centre Horsens:

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