Insulation waste in Switzerland; regulations, issues and solutions
The issues related to insulation waste in Switzerland are multiple. They concern public health, the environment and the economy. Insulation materials containing hazardous substances can cause serious health problems and contaminate soil, water and air. Non-hazardous insulation waste can and should be recycled in a responsible manner.
What are the different types of insulation waste in Switzerland?
This non-exhaustive list, based on the OFEV classification from 2017, presents 5 categories of insulation that have been or are still used in construction and that must be disposed of during transformations or demolitions:
- Expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation waste: this waste consists of small expanded polystyrene beads, often used in walls and roofs to insulate buildings.
- Polyurethane (PUR) insulation waste: this waste consists of polyurethane foam, which is often used in walls, roofs and floors to insulate.
- Mineral wool insulation waste: this category includes glass wool and rock wool, both of which are widely used for building insulation.
- Cellulose insulation waste: this category includes insulation materials made from recycled newspaper, which are often used for wall insulation.
- Natural material insulation waste: this category includes insulation materials based on natural materials, such as wood fiber, hemp, and sheep's wool.
They can be recycled or recovered energetically, but often require separation and specific treatment to avoid contamination or pollution of the environment.
How is this waste treated according to its type?
The different types of insulation waste require specific management due to their characteristics and composition. Here are some examples of recycling methods for the 5 insulation categories mentioned above:
- EPS can be recycled into expanded polystyrene pellets that can be used to make new products, such as picture frames or egg boxes.
- PUR can be recycled into pellets that can be used to make new products, such as foam padding or yoga mats.
- Mineral wool insulation waste: Mineral wool can be recycled into mineral wool granules that can be used to make new products, such as sound insulation panels.
- Cellulose insulation waste: Cellulose can be recycled into granules that can be used to make new products, such as insulation boards.
- Natural material insulation waste: Natural material insulation materials can be recycled or composted depending on their composition. For example, wood fiber can be recycled into pellets or insulation boards, while sheep wool can be composted.
Unfortunately, even if these different insulating materials can be recycled, they are too often recovered energetically by incineration.
It is important to note that the management of insulation waste must comply with waste regulations and must be carried out in a responsible manner to avoid contamination or pollution of the environment.
And what about the law?
Unfortunately the regulations and laws governing waste management in Switzerland are not sufficiently binding. Even if specific legal bases for insulation waste exist in the OLED, especially for hazardous and special waste, as well as in the standards SN EN 13163.
In short, at the legal level insulation waste is mainly classified according to its hazardousness:
- Non-hazardous insulation waste: This is insulation waste that does not pose a risk to human health or the environment.
- Hazardous insulation waste that requires specific disposal: This is insulation waste that contains substances that are hazardous to human health or the environment, such as asbestos, lead or PCBs.
- Special insulation waste: This is insulation waste that can only be managed or disposed of in special facilities, due to its composition or hazardousness. This includes expanded polystyrene (EPS) waste containing flammable gases or polyurethane (PUR) waste containing isocyanate gases.
It is important to note that regulations for insulation waste may vary between cantons and municipalities in Switzerland, so it is important to find out what local rules apply.
What are the future challenges related to insulation waste in Switzerland?
The challenges related to insulation waste in Switzerland are multiple and concern the environment, public health and the economy. Here are some of the main issues:
The first issue is related to insulation materials containing substances that are hazardous to health and the environment. These must be treated in accordance with current regulations to minimize the impact on humans, biodiversity and ecosystems.
Secondly, waste management in terms of sorting and transport plays an important role. Indeed, the quantities of insulation waste related to renovation works are very important. Therefore, responsible management and disposal of this waste significantly reduces the pollution generated by the waste. The costs for the disposal of insulation waste can be very high. This is not only due to the large volume of waste, but also to the specific treatment required. These costs have a considerable impact on the renovation budgets of private individuals and communities.
In terms of recycling, the potential of recovery of insulation waste, which allows to reduce the related management costs and to limit the use of raw materials, is still under-exploited and must be developed.
Finally, the awareness of the actors constitutes an equally important challenge to improve the management and promote recycling. All the actors of the concerned sectors must be made aware of the stakes to adapt their daily practices and thus reduce the impact on the environment and public health.
How does Big Sack contribute to meeting these challenges?
As a player in the collection and transportation of construction waste, Big Sack offers three bag sizes ranging from 1 to 3m3, making it easy to sort waste at source.
In addition, Big Sack also offers 1m3 bags with closure to separate and transport highly agglomerated asbestos waste in accordance with regulations.
Overall, Big Sack's solution allows, through its services, to contribute to optimize waste management to favor sorting and thus recycling as well as to minimize and optimize the transportation of this waste.
Finally, with this article, as in our daily work, we are trying to raise awareness of these issues among our entourage, our customers and our partners in order to continuously improve our services and reduce our impact.
Do not hesitate to contact us for any additional information or question at email@example.com