Greenfiber Turns Recycled Paper into Insulation

Knauf Insulation

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Although cellulose insulation has been around for more than 40 years, it still plays second-fiddle to fiberglass – which comprises a whopping 94 percent of the U.S. insulation market.

But with innovative manufacturing processes and an eco-friendly edge, Charlotte, N.C.-based Greenfiber is turning what was once an environmentally-conscious “specialty” product into a major competitor in the building products industry.

Not only does Greenfiber’s natural fiber insulation help reduce the energy needed to heat homes and light commercial buildings, but it is also made from a staggering 85 percent recycled paper fiber, reducing manufacturing costs for the company and giving new life to millions of tons of paper and paperboard annually.

With a combination of commercial accounts, municipal recycling parterships and public drop-off locations, Greenfiber collects hundreds of tons of recycled paper each month for its insulation products, including cardboard, newsprint and hard-to-recycle fibers such as pizza boxes and pre-consumer toilet paper and paper towels.

Through a process of grinding paper and paperboard and introducing fire retardants, Greenfiber is able to transform throw-aways from manufacturers, retailers and the public into cellulose insulation. The company’s eight U.S. manufacturing plants, including the Phoenix plant pictured above, can process an astonishing 350 tons of recycled paper every day.

So, how does the performance of cellulose insulation stack up to its fiberglass competitor? Surprisingly, with respect to soundproofing, air flow, mold protection and even fire resistance, cellulose insulation comes out on top.

“When you tell people we want to put paper in their attic, their first response is ‘What about my 2-year-old?'” said Randall Maxey, maintenance manager at Greenfiber’s Phoenix facility. “The first instinct is that paper burns – but not the way we do it.”

Greenfiber’s Cocoon Insulation has a Class 1/A fire rating as set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Through a large-scale outdoor fire demonstration, the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute concluded that Greenfiber insulation increased fire resistance by as much as 57 percent when compared to fiberglass insulation.

“Where that comes into play is that if there is a fire, you have more time to get yourself and your loved ones out of the house,” Maxey explained.

How does Greenfiber manage to fireproof recycled paper? Interestingly enough, hefty chemicals aren’t involved in the process. During processing, the company adds ammonium sulfate and borate to repel fire, two common and relatively mild chemicals that can be found in household items like eye drops.

“More people are beginning to recognize the cellulose insulation industry,” said Cliff Roberts, recycling coordinator for Greenfiber. “If you study it … and really understand the differences between the two products, there are a lot of advantages of using cellulose over fiberglass.”

Greenfiber insulation is sold at most major home improvement retailers in the United States and Canada, including Lowe’s and Home Depot. For more information on the performance and environmental benefits of cellulose insulation, head to Greenfiber’s website.

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