Kingspan targets plastic recycling rate of 1bn bottles per year

Irish company says it will use recovered ocean plastic in manufacturing of insulation

Just nine per cent of plastic is recycled. More than eight millions tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year. Photograph: iStock

Just nine per cent of plastic is recycled. More than eight millions tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year. Photograph: iStock

 

A billion plastic bottles will be recycled into house insulation by Irish company, Kingspan by 2025, following a deal which will see dumped plastic collected at sea by Mediterranean fishermen.

Initially, the recycling will take place at a Kingspan-owned plant near Barcelona in Spain, but the raw material will then feed into the global Kingspan supply chain, including operations in Ireland.

Just 9 per cent of plastic is recycled.

More than 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year – equal to one truckload of plastic being dumped every minute, according to the UN Environment Programme.

Kingspan Group chief executive Gene Murtagh said the recycling plan forms part of the company’s longer-term strategy to increase its use of recycled materials and support the circular economy .

“With the construction industry contributing 30 per cent of all the global waste that goes into landfill, it is vital that we at Kingspan find responsible ways to reduce waste at all points in the supply chain,” he said.

EcoAlf (EAF) founder Javier Goyeneche said the partnership would enable EAF to expand its ocean-cleaning action: “[Kingspan] can help us close the loop by using large volumes of the materials we recover from the seas.”

“But even more importantly we want partners who share our values of wanting to make the planet a cleaner and more sustainable place,” Goyeneche declared.

Kingspan has pledged to be a “net zero energy” business by 2020, by cutting down on energy use and by ensuring that its energy comes from renewable sources and, where possible, generated on Kingspan’s own properties.

Mike Stenson (left), head of innovation at Kingspan, and Javier Goyeneche, founder of the EcoAlf Foundation are pictured with an insulation panel made with recycled plastic bottles. Phototgraph: Vitor Schietti
Mike Stenson (left), head of innovation at Kingspan, and Javier Goyeneche, founder of the EcoAlf Foundation are pictured with an insulation panel made with recycled plastic bottles. Phototgraph: Vitor Schietti

Garbage patches

Carried by the ocean current, plastic waste gathers over decades in key locations known to scientists as “garbage patches”, most notably the Great North Pacific Garbage Patch which was identified in 1997.

Global use of plastics has grown dramatically over the last half-century. In 2013, 271 million tonnes of plastics were produced, representing a 4 per cent increase over 2012, while the figures have increased since – despite growing public attention on the issue.

Published in the journal Science in February 2015, a study conducted by a scientific working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), quantified the input of plastic waste from land into the ocean.

The 8 million tonnes annually dumped in the world’s seas is “equivalent to five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world”, according to the environmental lobby group, Coastal Care.

The numbers will double by 2025, it has warned.

In 2025, the annual input is estimated to be about twice greater, or 10 bags full of plastic per foot of coastline. So the cumulative input for 2025 would be nearly 20 times the 8 million metric tons estimate – 100 bags of plastic per foot of coastline in the world.

The death-toll caused by ocean plastic is causing mounting concern – all of the 1.5 million Laysan albatrosses in the Pacific have plastic in their digestive system, while a third of their chicks are already been fed with toxic amounts by their parents.