Circularity Spotlight: Kingspan Light + Air

13 June 2022 Kingspan Group

Increasing material efficiency to divert 500 tonnes from landfill

Our approach to circularity

Throughout Kingspan, we share a Planet Passionate vision that aims to advance our environmental performance across the areas of carbon, energy, circularity and water.

As a global product manufacturer, we want to play our part in replacing the current linear model with a new circular approach to how we design, construct and dismantle buildings. To achieve our circularity vision, and help accelerate this transition, we've made circularity a priority in our sustainability agenda; and we’re embedding circular economy principles, values, and themes in the way we operate, innovate and design our products.

Read on to discover how Kingspan Light + Air's efficiencies in manufacturing contribute to these ambitious objectives.

Kingspan Light + Air—a healthy approach to the built environment

At Kingspan Light + Air we develop and manufacture products—over 100 of them—that use proprietary technology to naturally illuminate spaces and ventilate buildings.

Like every other part of Kingspan, we're working hard to improve our manufacturing efficiency.  Dr. Miguel Paya-Marin, Head of Strategic Projects & Innovation, Kingspan Light + Air puts it this way:

As part of our circularity strategy, we are working hard across our divisions to improve material efficiency in our factory processes. Kingspan’s Light + Air regrind process is a good example of ways in which we maximise efficiency whilst minimising waste.
Introducing the Kingspan Light + Air regrind process

What is regrind—and why is it so important?

Manufacturing certain types of plastics requires an extrusion process. This involves melting together the plastic resin and other ingredients to form a liquid. This is then continuously forced out or ‘extruded’ through a die and expands during the cooling process.

Regrind is any recaptured scrap thermoplastic that has gone through this process and is then reworked (reground and reintroduced into the manufacturing process). Divisional Polymer Engineer Oleg Aleksandrov explains its importance: 
Our regrind process is important to us, not only because of the role it plays in achieving waste avoidance in our sustainability journey; it is also a vital component in delivering high levels of manufacturing efficiency, which sits within our LIFECycle Framework.
About Kingspan LIFECycle

At Kingspan, we use our LIFECycle Product Circularity Framework to define what a circular product looks like. It addresses the following five themes: 

1. Lean and Circular Design, bespoke to the product and industry need;
2. Input Materials that are circular, and responsibly sourced;
3. Factory Processes without waste or pollution;
4. Extended Life Models, including potential reuse and/or repurposing where appropriate; and
5. Cycling: products that can be broken down to basic materials, which can then be remade into new products.

The third theme is particularly relevant to Kingspan Light + Air since it focuses on eliminating waste and pollution from our factory processes - in other words, essentially resource-efficient manufacturing.

This framework allows us to take meaningful steps forward in our circularity journey. We also currently use it to evaluate our existing product portfolio.  

How the Kingspan Light + Air regrind process works

We pride ourselves on our quality control and continuously strive to improve manufacturing efficiency to ensure that what we produce is of the highest possible standard. For this reason, we regrind excess thermoplastic generated at the time of manufacture, as well as the plastic from products that doesn’t meet our high quality standards. In support of this, we actively encourage all of the Light + Air factories within the Kingspan Group to return off-cuts and damaged product to our manufacturing plant, by covering the costs for transport and packing. These materials form part of the regrind mix as well.

The material for regrind goes into isolation for further inspection. It’s then cut into smaller pieces and siloed ready for the process.

We mix the resulting regrind material with virgin materials at a ratio of around 20-30% regrind to 70-80% virgin materials, before we reintroduce it to the manufacturing process.

According to Oleg, 
Kingspan Light + Air regrinds around 500 tonnes of material annually, but we can ramp that up to around 1 tonne an hour if we need to. I find that incredibly satisfying: after all, the 500 tonnes a year we regrind means 500 tonnes we save from landfill.
Discover more about the work of Kingspan Light + Air.

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