Fiberglass has been one of the hardest materials to recycle for a very long time. Like most composites that aren’t known for their recyclability, fiberglass usually ended up in landfills as they reached the end of their life. However, with the advancements in recycling, techniques have been developed to ensure that fiberglass is recycled and used as components to save energy or capital under recycling programs.
Fiberglass is recyclable. However, there are some factors that decide if it is possible. Factors like fiberglass recycling facilities in the area you live, the condition of the fiberglass, and costs associated with recycling will determine if you can recycle fiberglass.
Ever since the introduction of fiberglass in the early 1930s as a highly versatile product, it has found a lot of uses ranging from home insulation to boats, surfboards, cars, and sporting equipment. The many benefits of fiberglass are attributed to its physical properties.
Fiberglass is very strong and lightweight. It is also relatively inexpensive which makes it a preferred choice for use in many industries.
Fiberglass was considered nearly impossible to recycle, up until a few years ago. However, with recent advancements in recycling techniques, there are new possibilities for recycling fiberglass.
Even though there are only a few viable ways available to recycle fiberglass, this is a significant improvement from when there wasn’t any. With the ongoing research on the science of composite recycling, we can expect more ways to recycle fiberglass in the future.
While a lot of states in the U.S. don’t take fiberglass for recycling, there are a few that do. You have to check with your local authorities to understand if they will accept fiberglass for you to safely hand it over to them for recycling.
Many houses make use of fiberglass for insulation. Fiberglass insulation is popular because it is water and fire-resistant, has a good sound-absorbing ability, and keeps the house warm and cozy.
You can use it as fiberglass batts or fiberglass blown-in insulation for houses. This fiberglass insulation can be reused and you do not have to dispose of them soon because they will end up in landfills where they do not degrade.
Depending on the fiberglass you’re dealing with you can have one or more options to recycle it. If you are having a fiberglass boat that is reaching the end of its life, you’re going to have a way to safely recycle it.
Unfortunately, unlike cars that are manufactured keeping recycling in mind, boats aren’t. You will have to find a recycling program that helps you accomplish this.
We will take a look at how you can recycle fiberglass with some examples so that you can understand the recycling process.
Be sure to follow these steps to recycle fiberglass.
Remove the Fiberglass
While you’re not going to be able to remove the fiberglass from the side of a boat, you can remove it if you’re using it as insulation in your home. Before you proceed, check with your local recycling facility to see if they accept fiberglass. Some of them do while others don’t.
There are a few companies like American Fiber Green Products that use proprietary technology for fiberglass recycling. Since they do not have locations for pickup/drop listed on their website, you can get in touch with them and get this information to move forward.
While you remove fiberglass, you will have to be very careful. Fiberglass has tiny shards of glass that can hurt or irritate your skin. Always wear gloves, eye goggles, long shirts and pants, and a respirator when you’re removing fiberglass. This is to ensure that you’re protected from getting hurt and to prevent you from inhaling tiny glass pieces.
Put the Fiberglass in a Trash Bag
A trash bag of good thickness is sufficient to hold the fiberglass you’re disposing of in a recycling bin. In addition to checking with your local recycling program, you can also get in touch with a local industrial recycler to know whether they will recycle fiberglass. You can dispose of the fiberglass in the trash bag and be sure that it will be recycled if there’s a facility in your area.
Recycling fiberglass on boats is a process that involves labor. It is not profitable which is one of the reasons why not many people do it.
The process involves removing all recyclable parts other than fiberglass from old boats. This includes removing aluminum, steel, copper, brass, oil, rubber, fuel, etc. Once this is done, you have three processing methods for recycling the boat – grinding, incineration, and pyrolysis.
Of the three processing methods, pyrolysis is the most efficient and decomposes the fiberglass into pyro-gas, pyro-oil, and a by-product that is solid. All of these three substances are recoverable. Pyro gas is similar to natural gas in its energy content and pyro oil has similarities to heavy crude oil.
Since fiberglass contains polyester, it can be used in the production of cement as polyester can be used as an energy source. This reduces the use of fossil fuels in cement manufacturing. The recycling process leaves no ash or other residues.
Fiberglass can be accepted by your local recycler. You will have to get in touch with them to know if they will take in fiberglass.
Usually, it is fiberglass insulation that is accepted by the recycler. They will request you to have clean fiberglass to be accepted.
This is because dirty fiberglass is considered garbage and is not taken. The reason why your recycler will want clean fiberglass is that they will donate the fiberglass for reuse. Since there aren’t any reliable ways to recycle fiberglass insulation, they are useful for reuse purposes.
For larger items made out of fiberglass like boats, you will have to look for recycling programs that will take your old boats and recycle the fiberglass for industrial use. Sometimes these programs can cost more than sending your boats to landfills due to the labor cost associated with removing all the materials other than the fiberglass from the boat. However, if you want to do your part for a greener world, you can check these recycling programs to recycle your fiberglass boats.
Fiberglass is known for its strength and durability. Since they are not very well suited for recycling, you may repurpose and reuse them.
This way, you can get more life out of fiberglass and dispose of them only when they are unfit for use. There are many ways of repurposing fiberglass depending on the fiberglass material you’re using.
Let us take a closer look at some of the ways you can repurpose fiberglass.
Fiberglass Insulation Repurposing
Fiberglass batts provide insulation for houses and can be repurposed if they are good. You will have to ensure that the fiberglass material is not compromised before going ahead with repurposing it. Since moisture can invite bacteria and can reduce the ability of the fiberglass batt to insulate, you will have to check to see if the insulation is severely compressed.
If you see that the insulation is matted down or compressed beyond what’s needed to get enough thermal effectiveness, also known as R-value, you will have to dispose of it.
However, if the insulation looks good, you can use it again by removing it and putting it in another place where it is needed. It is always recommended to take the help of experts with specific experience in doing this because you might expose yourself to harmful tiny shards of glass pieces if you’re handling the fiberglass insulation yourself.
DIY Fiberglass Boat Pool
If you’re in possession of a fiberglass boat and dread the cost of dumping it in a landfill or recycling it, you can make it look good by making your own DIY fiberglass boat pool. You can cut out the grass from underneath the area where the boat rests and clean the boat. If you’re looking to add some colors to the boat so that it looks good with its surroundings, you can pick up some waterproof paint and give a desirable look to the boat.
Once you’ve finished the work, you will have a nice-looking boat you can fill water in to make it a boat pool. You can use the pool to relax while having a drink or to leisurely enjoy the outdoors and nature.
DIY Fiberglass Surfboard Art
Your old fiberglass surfboard can add a whole new look to your home. Some colors and a little bit of imagination is all that you need to make a beautiful looking surfboard that you can use as decor inside or around your house.
Treat the surfboard as your canvas to bring the artist in you to life. The possibilities are endless.
You can do a lot more with your old fiberglass materials. Since they are non-biodegradable, go ahead and give them a new purpose with some repurposing. You will be glad you did.
Fiberglass hasn’t been easy to recycle until recently. Even now, it can be hard to find a place that will accept old fiberglass.
If you’re lucky enough to have a facility that will take your old fiberglass then that’s great! If not, then your best bet is trying to find a way to repurpose it or just throw it away if repurposing isn’t an option.