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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Recycling Fiberglass Insulation

Machine used to shred fiberglass batts, so they would work well in machines used for blowing insulation. Courtesy photos.

Machine used to shred fiberglass batts, so they would work well in machines used for blowing insulation. Courtesy photo.

 

By George Harvey

Jamie Myers, who operates J. Myers Builders in Lisbon, New Hampshire, has been interested in the environment and recycling for a long time. Years ago, he did research to find out what uses there were for old fiberglass batts that were removed from buildings that were given retrofits. It was something that required research – not many people were trying to find ways to recycle fiberglass, but there are no good ways to dispose of it.

“It was a product we do not want in our dumps,” Myers said. “It doesn’t break down and lasts forever.”

He found that a company in Colorado had once made a machine that could shred the batts. That was years ago, however, and when he learned more, he found that the machine did not do well enough to stay in production. About thirty units had been made before the whole project had been given up.

Nevertheless, the idea of a process for reuse of insulation stuck with Myers. It was filed away as a reference in his mind, to be brought back to his attention at the proper time.

Myers seems to be a person who is interested in a wide variety of things and does not mind learning new skills. He even has been known to invest a few dollars on some piece of equipment that has an immediate need not usually thought of as related to his building business, provided that it can pay for itself. After doing its work, such a machine, could be sold, but it could also be relegated storage, from which it could be retrieved, if the need arose. Such a storage place might be considered a physical analogy to the corner in his mind where the results of research into recycling batts was stored. Sometimes, such a thing can have unexpected value.

The time came when he became active in a project headed by H. P. Cummings, a contractor in Woodsville, New Hampshire. The project engaged Myers to provide new insulation for four buildings in Bradford, Vermont. The old insulation, fiberglass batts, had to be removed, and new insulation was to be installed in its place.

The fiberglass batts removed from a building had to be disposed of, and the only option still seemed to be to send them to a landfill. But landfills are rapidly filling and space in them is not free. In fact, the dump fees for the four buildings in Bradford would run $5,000 to $6,000. That is an expense, and an additional environmental cost, worth considering.

When Myers’ mind focused on the problem of what to do with old insulation, the old research and the old machine soon looked like a match made in Serendipity. That old machine, it turned out, could shred fiberglass batts so they would work well in the machines J. Myers Builders used for blowing in insulation.

The old fiberglass batts in the four buildings were ground up and reused to insulate the building’s attics for the retrofit. Not only was there enough for the project at hand, to provide the specified R-value, there was even a little extra, which was used to increase that value. The job wound up reducing the customer’s costs, and while the reduction was slight, there was added benefit to the rest of the world that the waste did not have to go to a landfill, and that is worth considering. So 100% of the attic insulation was recycled locally, no new product had to be purchased for insulating the attics, product transportation was reduced, and the local work added to local employment and the local economy.

Since that small success, Myers has provided the same service elsewhere. One building in Barre, Vermont, got the same treatment with very much the same outcome.

“We want to really set the standard for recycling and offering this helps set that standard,” Myers said of the process he developed. “And it looks good if you can say that you have recycled something that would otherwise end up in the dump.”

We agree. It looks good.

J. Myers Builders’ web site is www.wesprayfoam.net. The phone number is 603-838-5112.

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