A Simple Guide for Insulation Waste Disposal
If you’re in a building, chances are you’re surrounded by insulation. It’s the primary means of keeping the temperature in your home stable and one of the easiest ways to save on energy bills. And, because insulation is so prevalent in buildings, it’s something you’ll need to decide what to do with when it’s time to replace or remove it.
Whether you're working on a large-scale building teardown with a demolition dumpster or looking for a way to recycle insulation during a home project, that process starts by determining what type of material you’re dealing with. Click the material type below to learn more about each and where you’re most likely to find them.
Fiberglass is the most common type of insulation material found in residential buildings. Common installation methods include batts and rolls as well as loose-fill blow-in. Rigid board installation is also possible.
Commonly found in: Walls, ceilings and air ducts.
Important Safety Reminder
If your home was built before 1990, beware of vermiculite insulation. The majority of this mineral-based insulation type was mined in a location that also had an asbestos deposit.
If you suspect your home contains vermiculite insulation, do not disturb it. Instead, contact a professional asbestos contractor to determine the next steps.
1. Sell It
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t sell used insulation. The potential for mold and rodent infestation makes it a hazardous waste that should be disposed of properly. However, if you have extra insulation that has never been used, selling it is a great option.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options when it comes to selling your extra insulation. Consider listing it on places like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and other construction material-focused wholesale sites.
2. Donate Extra Insulation
Similar to selling, it’s not advised to donate used insulation for a variety of reasons. However, that doesn’t mean extra unused insulation should go to waste.
The insulation usually needs to be in its original packaging to be accepted as a donation. As a result, you may not be able to donate the scraps of batts and rolls you cut off to fit a space, but those extra panels of foam insulation still in the wrapping are good to go. Large organizations like your local Habitat ReStore will most likely accept the extra insulation, but don’t be afraid to think outside of the box for other in-need nonprofits. For example:
- Your city government
- Local construction companies
- Nonprofit construction organizations
- Homeless shelters scheduled for repairs or upgrades
3. Reuse Your Materials
There’s no rule that says you can’t reuse your insulation. Perhaps you are removing a wall to go for an open concept during a remodel. Why not reuse the batts and rolls in a different wall that is under-insulated? The key is knowing which type of insulation you’re working with. Nearly all insulation materials can be reused, with the exception of loose-fill blow-in types. Due to the delivery method, this type of insulation is single-use.
Always take caution when reusing your insulation. There’s potential for mold to have developed in the fibers or for a rodent to have made a home in them at some point. If you notice anything suspicious, you’re better off getting rid of the insulation and starting with a fresh piece.
4. Find a Recycler
Generally speaking, you can recycle insulation. However, it should be noted from the start that cellulose and foam board insulation can’t be recycled. That’s mostly for a good reason – the vast majority of these insulation types are already made of recycled materials. For example, most cellulose insulation is made of recycled newspapers saturated in fire-retardant material. However, it’s that fire-retardant material that makes it unrecyclable.
As for fiberglass and mineral wool insulations, they can be recycled. However, very few waste facilities are equipped to handle the job. As a result, they are not accepted with your curbside recycling. If you’re dealing with either of these types of insulation, call your local recycling facility to see if they accept insulation and set up a dropoff appointment. Or, if you’re working with a large amount of old insulation, see what recycling options your local dumpster company can offer to help you hit your project’s waste diversion goals.
5. Rent a Dumpster
Renting a dumpster is the quickest and most efficient way to get rid of insulation. Considering most insulation is tossed during a larger construction project that produces a variety of debris, a roll off dumpster allows you to throw everything out at the same time. Drywall? Spare lumber? Flooring? Throw those in the same dumpster as your insulation to get rid of everything fast.
Keep in mind that any insulation containing asbestos cannot be thrown out with any of the above methods. Instead, find a reliable asbestos professional to determine the safest option in your area.
Insulation Disposal FAQs
Can insulation be recycled?
Cellulose and foam board insulation are not recyclable due to a fire-retardant material they’re saturated in before installation.
Fiberglass and mineral wool insulation can be recycled. However, most recycling facilities don’t have the proper equipment available to handle the job. As a result, you can’t recycle it curbside. Instead, give the facility a call to see if they can handle the material.
Can you burn fiberglass insulation?
Do not burn fiberglass insulation. Aside from the fact that it will only melt because it is glass-based, it can also release highly toxic gas into the environment due to the formaldehyde treatment most fiberglass insulation has.
Can you reuse insulation?
Insulation can be reused, provided it is not loose-fill blow-in material. However, it is important to remember that fiberglass, mineral wool and cellulose insulation could develop mold or rodent infestations that would make them unsuitable for reuse. If you suspect your insulation may be compromised, your best bet is to simply discard it – and if there is a lot to throw away you should consider a roll off dumpster for quick disposal.
Is fiberglass insulation recyclable?
Yes, but it is not the easiest material to recycle. Most recycling facilities don’t have the machinery needed to melt the fiberglass while also trapping and disposing of the toxic gasses it expels.
If you have fiberglass insulation you would like to recycle, call your local recycling facility to see if they can handle it. If not, they may know the nearest facility that can take your insulation.
Additional Disposal and Recycling Resources
Looking for some other tips on how to handle construction debris? Check out the advice in some of our blog posts, resources and disposal guides.