Veolia developing £10m facility to process glass into insulation

Veolia has agreed a long-term contract to provide recycled glass cullet to be made into insulation products, with a £10-million processing facility planned for international insulation manufacturer Knauf Insulation’s St Helens site.

Veolia developing cullet facility to close insulation loop
John Sinfield, Managing Director, Knauf Insulation Northern Europe; and Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President, Veolia UK
The facility will process glass packaging collected by Veolia into a ‘furnace-ready’ cullet that can be made into a glass mineral wool that will then be used to make insulation products.

The facility, due to be built by the end of 2017, will be situated on the site of Knauf’s UK head office and glass mineral wool plant in St Helens, Merseyside, and will provide around 18 permanent jobs to the area.

Glass collected at the materials recovery facilities (MRFs) operated by the firm for Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority and Merseyside and Halton district councils will be dried and refined into the furnace-ready cullet, cleaning and crushing it into small fragments. This will then be fed into a furnace on the Knauf Insulation site, where it will be melted and then spun into the glass mineral wool used to make insulation rolls for ceilings, walls and pipes.

Veolia says that the facility’s process uses less energy than traditional methods of manufacturing mineral wool insulation. Announcing the plans for development, Estelle Brachlianoff, Senior Executive Vice-President at Veolia UK & Ireland, said: “This will save raw materials, lessen energy demand, cut CO2 emissions and reduce the amount of materials going to landfill. It is set to be the first of its kind in the UK and represents a significant investment in circular thinking, new technology and jobs and will ensure we keep the highest quality of glass in circulation.”

Glass is one of very few infinitely recyclable materials and, as such, can in theory be recycled back into glass containers over and over again, but the different colours must be kept separate or separated following collection. Resource asked Veolia whether its supply was mixed glass that couldn't be used for closed-loop bottle-to-bottle applications but was told that information wasn't available.

‘Stable supply’ will mitigate shortages impacting construction sector

According to Knauf, over 80 per cent of the glass used to make its glass wool products is recycled, but with the facility situated on-site, the company says that the contract will ensure a ‘stable supply of high-quality recycled glass’ and is targeting a greater recycled content for its products.

John Sinfield, Managing Director at Knauf Insulation Northern Europe, said: “Given recent shortages impacting the construction sector, our customers can be reassured that we are working proactively upstream to further enhance the security of our supply. The construction of the new facility should also help grow the local economy through the creation of new jobs and the use of local firms to carry out the relevant construction work.”

Cllr Graham Morgan, Chair of Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority, added: “The authority is always working with its contractors to promote the circular economy in relation to the reuse and recycling of raw materials, and this new facility is an excellent example of local solutions that can reduce costs and the impact on the environment. We’re also pleased that Veolia’s investment has created 18 direct local jobs at the facility, and many more along the supply chain in the area.”