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HERADESIGN®: Reconciling Economy with Ecology

Approximately five years ago, Knauf Ceiling Solutions in Ferndorf, Austria, implemented an advanced recycling system for recovering binders from HERADESIGN® wood wool ceiling panels.

This initiative has effectively facilitated the transition to a circular economy, resulting in substantial reductions in CO2 emissions, improvements in the carbon footprint, and decreased reliance on primary raw materials. 

"Today we can speak without exaggeration of a smart and forward-thinking investment through with which we developed the recycling process in 2017/2018, tailored it to our requirements, set up the necessary system technology, and have since then continuously improved it," explains Harald Oberscheider, Plant Manager Ferndorf, Knauf Ceiling Solutions.

The need for a consistent circular economy is today undisputed. Responsible resource conservation, waste avoidance, and efficient return of materials to production are means to partially offset the significantly increased costs of raw materials and energy. "This is precisely the effect we achieve, in addition to the ecological benefits of the system," says Harald Oberscheider. 

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Harald Oberscheider, Plant Manager at the Knauf Ceiling Solutions facility in Ferndorf (Austria), played a pivotal role in the development of the recycling process for recovering binders from HERADESIGN® wood wool ceiling panels. 

The key feature of the process is the thermal recycling of wood wool board remnants from production, with the resulting residues – the remaining binding agent based on magnesite – being reused as a secondary raw material. This process involves reversing the manufacturing process by adding magnesite as a binding agent to the wood wool mass.

In large-scale tests, around a ton of binder was successfully reintroduced into the production process as a secondary raw material. Notably, the technical product properties and the exceptional quality of the HERADESIGN® panels remained unchanged. The pilot phase concluded in 2018 and since then, the recycling process has been firmly integrated into the HERADESIGN® production process. 

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After the thermal recycling of the wood wool ceiling panels, the magnesite-based binder remains and is reintroduced into the production process. 

The balance sheet after a successful five years is truly impressive: In 2022 alone, the system produced approximately 3,100 tons of secondary binder, the proportion of which in the HERADESIGN® ceiling panels is now around 30% with an upward trend.

This achievement has had a significant impact on reducing CO2 emissions: the use of one ton of secondary binder instead of conventional magnesite saves approximately one and a half tons of CO2. When projected over the course of a year, this amounts to a reduction of around 4,000 to 5,000 tons of CO2. Remarkably, the investment in the system as already recouped itself by March 2022 since its official launch in 2018. 

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The recycling system, which was integrated into the production of HERADESIGN® panels in 2018, has already recouped its costs within four years. 

Since the inception of the recycling system, no production remnants have been disposed of as waste at our production site. Moving forward, we will also focus on reducing construction site waste and strive to consistently minimise our existing landfill waste, following the principle of urban mining. The new recycling process serves as a clear demonstration that ecology and economy are perfectly aligned in the circular economy, benefitting both the environment and the company.

Harald Oberscheider / Plant Manager Ferndorf, Knauf Ceiling Solutions