In Europe, the PIR and PUR insulation products industry comprises over 11,500 companies employing over a third of a million people and is worth about 6 billion Euros in trade.
The PIR and PUR insulation industry offers products that can provide low energy buildings helping the drive to eliminate fuel poverty and playing a crucial role in cutting CO2 emissions by providing products that greatly improve energy efficiency, an essential element in the struggle against climate change.
The net environmental impact of PIR/PUR insulation products is extremely positive. It is estimated that over a 50-year period these products will save at least >100 times more energy than embodied in the fossil fuel used to produce them in the first place. Moreover, the widely respected sustainable construction consultants XCO2 conisbee Ltd conclude in its publication -Insulation for Sustainability – A Guide- that zero ODP insulation products such as PIR and PUR are amongst the most environmentally sustainable forms of insulation.
The industry has an excellent track record of proactively addressing environmental issues such as ozone depletion. Zero ODP solutions were developed and in many cases implemented well ahead of legislative or regulatory changes.
There are a range of options available for the recovery or recycling of PIR/PUR products produced with zero ODP materials at the end of their useful lives. For example the metal from metal faced sandwich panels can be recovered and recycled although it is recognised that the best currently available solution for the insulation core, if it can no longer be used as insulation, is by incineration with energy recovery, where incineration facilities are available. Where facilities are unavailable landfill can continue to be used.
Materials produced before about 2002 are more likely to have been produced with ozone depleting substances. These are classed as hazardous materials as they contain ozone depletors even though these agents are encapsulated within the insulation structure and unlikely to be released to the atmosphere. Again the legislation concerning the classification of hazardous materials and landfill legislation is complex.
IMA is working with major stakeholders to try and identify future solutions for PIR and PUR waste containing ozone depletors.