Everyone is aware that we need to reduce the use of plastic .Plastic is used in virtually all industries and particularly in construction where it represents 23% of all materials used. Everything from fixtures, pipes, wire casings through to insulation isolators used between construction elements and walls. Its popularity is due to the low cost to manufacture; mass manufacturing capabilities; light weight; durability and moderate thermal performance.
The problem with Plastic.
Increasingly, there is an awareness of the problems posed by plastic use. As Grenfell showed plastic melts at 160 °C and gives off toxic fumes when exposed to heat. Only 25% of old plastic parts are recycled with the remainder going to landfill (25 million tonnes in the UK) where durable parts take 450 years to degrade. 63% of UK plastic waste is exported. 10 billion pounds of garbage mostly plastic ends up in the sea and it is now estimated that 90% of all sea birds contain plastic and that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. Indeed, about 1 million sea birds and 100,000 sea mammals die every year because of pollution.
Plastic alternatives for building insulation.
One method of insulating buildings is to apply insulation to the face of the existing concrete/brickwork. However, current thermal insulation blankets in the form of mineral wool or polystyrene/PUR slabs are not finished products and require a decorative covering. That decorative covering may be in the form of a cantilevered panel system (similar to the Grenfell cladding) which is fixed back to the existing structure. However, the ties used to fix the cantilevered panels penetrate the insulation and create a thermal (cold) bridge thereby reducing the performance of the insulation. Hence the industry has historically used plastic as isolators between the external wall fabric and the brackets. Max Isopads, however, are made from Aerogel.
Isopads are one small step in the direction of reducing the reliance of the construction industry on plastic.