Kingspan has piloted an insulation collection scheme in Dudley that aims to help contractors edge closer to their zero-waste-to-landfill targets

Getting rid of insulation offcuts is a growing problem. Many contractors have set themselves tough waste reduction policies - Wates, for example,
has said it will send zero waste to landfill by 2020; Willmott Dixon has gone even further, pledging to hit the same target by
the end of this year.

Willmott Dixon has already reduced waste to landfill by 90%, but cracking the last 10% has proved challenging. According to Kingspan Insulation, half the remainder comprises insulation offcuts. If the government’s Green Deal takes off, the problem will get worse because insulation is likely to be the product used most to improve the energy efficiency of homes.

This issue has compelled Kingspan Insulation to take action by launching a waste take-back scheme, similar to that used for plasterboard offcuts, for its rigid insulation board made from polyurethane.

“Contractors were asking us to sort [this problem] out because of the waste disposal costs and the impact on their reduction targets,” says Peter Morgan, Kingspan Insulation’s marketing communications manager. “We had to do something.”

Waste is inevitable when installing insulation, as the sheets need to be cut to fit around openings and must follow the shape of internal spaces. Kingspan say 3-7% of insulation ends up as waste. And it is expensive to get rid of as, even though it is lightweight, the material is very bulky.

Test case

Kingspan Insulation has piloted its scheme on a 206-home refurbishment at Brierley Hill for Dudley council, which was carried out by energy supplier E.ON. The bulk of the work involved installing external insulation, principally Kingspan Kooltherm K5 external wall insulation board, and applying render on top. Most of the waste produced on this project comprised insulation offcuts.

The external wall insulation specialist contractor was Wetherby Building Systems. Kingspan says it was essential to form a good working relationship with Wetherby to ensure that the insulation offcuts were not contaminated by other waste streams.

Kingspan had to register as a waste handler with the Environment Agency. Because the firm was only licensed to handle insulation waste, any other waste arriving at its factory had to be returned to site unless the contamination was very minor. One in 20 bags of offcuts, it says, arrived contaminated.

Wetherby put the waste in one tonne bags supplied by Kingspan. Karen Jones, Kingspan Insulation’s waste product manager, says the process helped reduce overall waste volumes. “It’s very good for housekeeping as it keeps the site tidy and it means offcuts can be reused,” she says. “It also makes the workers aware of the waste they are producing.”

The bags were collected when Kingspan made deliveries to site, so no extra journeys were required. The last collection happened after the final delivery - Kingspan collected this when making a delivery to a nearby job. “The biggest issue was ensuring that we weren’t emitting more carbon than we saved,” says Jones.

The bags were then taken to one of Kingspan Insulation’s two UK factories and reused in various ways. Up to 3% of new insulation can comprise recycled products, for instance. Some of the waste goes into making a plastic MDF-type product, which is used for making worktops. The rest is compacted into briquettes and used to fuel a local cement kiln.

First of many

Jones describes the Brierley Hill project as “very successful”. “It worked for the client, contractor and the council, as they wanted
to cut down the amount of waste going to their tips,” says Jones.

It also saved money. Kingspan Insulation charges £150 a tonne for collection, which is good value as disposing of 200kg of insulation waste would normally require two skips and cost a contractor considerably more than £150 a tonne. More than four tonnes of waste was collected at Brierley Hill, which saved 75% per tonne.

The success of this scheme has prompted Wetherby to work with Kingspan Insulation on 10 other E.ON projects. Kingspan has also worked with Willmott Dixon on a new-build academy. Jones says this was much more challenging as there were more waste streams and more segregation was involved, which required more communication.

Kingspan says that this scheme should give it competitive advantage as it saves contractors money and helps with waste reduction targets. However, it stresses it will only work with contractors on a long-term basis, as the scheme’s success depends on close engagement with the project team.

Jones also points out that Kingspan Insulation is primarily a manufacturer. “We don’t want to become a waste contractor,” she says.