Is Fiberglass Recyclable? How to Properly Dispose of It
Although it’s plastic, fiberglass cannot be recycled. The resin that’s used to bind its various components and the coating applied to give it a shiny finish make recycling difficult and inefficient.
Fiberglass should be disposed of properly to protect our environment. It is best to take fiberglass items to a hazardous waste facility, where they can be disposed of safely. If fiberglass is disposed of in regular landfills, the resin and coating can leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater.
Below, we discuss the recyclability and proper disposal of fiberglass. Plus, we explain the decomposition of fiberglass.
Why Is Fiberglass Not Recyclable?
To recycle fiberglass, you’d have to shred and grind it. In addition, since fiberglass is made of different materials, the combination of these materials and resins would be difficult to separate for recycling. Grinding will destroy the glass fibers in fiberglass. As a result, fiberglass’s durability, strength, and size will be affected. Thus, using recycled material to produce new fiberglass would not be possible.
Despite that, there is a process to ‘recycle’ fiberglass to produce energy sources. Here are the three steps in this process.
Large machinery grinds fiberglass to form a powder or small shredded pieces. These are then heated and mixed with a resin, like epoxy. The process destroys glass fibers due to the heat and pressure applied. Thus, fiberglass loses its durability and strength.
Although this fiberglass cannot be converted into new fiberglass, it has some applications. For instance, you can use it as a filler in asphalt, cement, and artificial wood.
Fiberglass can also be incinerated at high temperatures. The heat breaks down fibers and resins to form steam. The stream is then used to power electricity-producing turbines.
However, the downside to this process is the remaining ash. It ends up in landfills, deteriorating the soil.
Pyrolysis refers to the chemical decomposition of fiberglass by heat in an oxygen-free environment. The process breaks down the material into combustible gas and carbon residue, which can be burned for energy.
Unfortunately, the carbon residue is non-recyclable and ends up in landfills too. Pyrolysis differs from incineration in the sense that the former is done without oxygen, while the latter requires oxygen. The process produces these substances:
All three of these can be used as a substitute for natural gas. They’re also clean, which means they don’t release toxic particulates into the environment.
Which Company Recycles Fiberglass?
Recycling centers do not typically handle fiberglass items. Likewise, you can’t just throw fiberglass items in the trash. However, some companies specialize in recycling fiberglass.
American Fiber Green Products is one such company. It transforms used fiberglass into lightweight panels that can be used for car parts and other products. Depending on the product, a company like American Fiber Green Products can recycle fiberglass into various forms, such as pellets, chopped fibers, and mats.
The company says it recycles fiberglass to produce wood-substitute planks. You can use them to build sea walls, fences, and picnic tables.
How to Dispose of Fiberglass?
Whether you have fiberglass insulation or fiberglass products, it’s imperative to dispose of them properly. Here are some tips to help you dispose of fiberglass safely and responsibly.
Contact Your Local Solid Waste Authority
Start by contacting your local solid waste authority to find out where you can take the fiberglass or their policy on disposing of it. The safest and most responsible way to get rid of fiberglass is to take it to a waste management facility.
In addition, you can also contact recyclers in your area to see if they make fiberglass. Some companies can break down and repurpose fiberglass products. Ask them if they can send someone to pick up the fiberglass and how much they charge for the pickup.
Check With Local Scrap Yards
You can also check with local scrap yards to see if they have a program or process for disposing of fiberglass. Ask them about their rates and any special requirements for disposing of the material.
Gather the Material in a Bag
Don’t mix fiberglass with other materials. Instead, gather all the fiberglass in a bag or container so that it can be separated and disposed of safely.
Fiberglass fibers can be difficult to contain, so make sure you use a thick plastic bag or container that will prevent them from escaping. Moreover, the dust particles can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Therefore, using a mask or respirator when handling the material is vital.
Can You Put Fiberglass in a Recycling Bin?
You should never place fiberglass in a recycling bin. Fiberglass can cause irritation to the skin and eyes, as well as respiratory problems if inhaled. If you need to dispose of fiberglass, you should contact your local hazardous waste disposal facility to find the proper way to handle it.
Depending on where you live, you may need to take the fiberglass to a facility yourself or have it picked up. If you choose to transport it yourself, always wear protective gloves and a face mask to prevent irritation or health issues.
In some places, you might face legal repercussions if you don’t discard the fiberglass properly. Therefore, it’s best to check with your local and state regulations before attempting to dispose of fiberglass on your own.
Does Fiberglass Decompose? How Long Does It Take?
Fiberglass does not undergo decomposition. The composition of the material is such that it does not break down in the environment. It’s composed of plastic fibers and glass; neither of these materials decomposes.
That means it can take hundreds, if not thousands, of years for fiberglass to be broken down in the environment.
Summing up, fiberglass cannot be recycled because of its composition. Recycling would destroy the glass and plastic particles in the material, rendering them useless for future use. The disposal of fiberglass involves grinding, incinerating, and pyrolysis. These processes convert the material into more manageable forms and make disposal easier.
When disposing of fiberglass, you should take precautions to ensure that you don’t release hazardous chemicals or fine particles into the environment. By following the local and federal regulations, you can dispose of fiberglass safely.
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