Tour of the Roxul Insulation Plant

I was at the Roxul insulation plant in Milton, Ont., yesterday. Curiosity brought me there. It wasn’t curiosity for the ribbon cutting for the $150-million facility or hearing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty speak, however. I was interested in the environmental angle. Sure, it’s good to insulate your house properly: you use less energy to keep yourself warm. Roxul is made of slag from Hamilton, basalt rock from Peterborough, Ont. Using a waste product such as slag has eco-virture, but it and the basalt are turned into fibres through a process that sees them cooked using coal coke from Buffalo, N.Y. as fuel. On the surface, that doesn’t sound like a very green set-up. Neither do recent reports out of Milton:

[Milton resident Bill] Miller said the residential community south of Roxul has often complained of a strong egg smell wafting from the plant’s stack and filling up their pools with particulates every time the wind blows south.


What do you think? Do these batts of insulation remind you of Weetabix?


Ontario Primer Dalton McGuinty speaks outside the Roxul plant in Milton, Ont.

Ontario Primer Dalton McGuinty speaks outside the Roxul plant in Milton, Ont.

But first, a bit about Roxul, which is rock-wool or stone-fibre insulation. This type of insulation has been pretty common in Europe since the 1930s and currently has a 20 to 25 per cent share of the market on the other side of the pond. Yet in North America: not so much. Yet, Roxul is hoping to make inroads over here with its expanded Milton plant and its other North American facility in Grand Forks, B.C.

Yesterday’s tour of the plant took my group through the whole Roxul-making process. We saw the uncompressed batts rolling along a conveyor belt. CHW contributor Allan Britnell said they reminded him of giant, rectangular Weetabix.

Here’s what I learned on the tour:

  • there is zero waste
  • all offcuts or waste from the production process is collected and put back into the system
  • the plant has aggressive dust collection, so we could walk about without dust masks
  • the coke-fuel furnace that heats the slag and basalt has an afterburner and mechanical filter to reduce carbon emissions
  • the natural-gas powered curing oven has hot-air capture to increase efficiency

Now, I’m no environmental engineer, but this list impressed me. Also, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to investigate Mr. Miller’s observations about an egg smell or particulates south of the plant. (I didn’t smell anything funky at the plant.) But, it seems to me, grey Roxul insulation is pretty green.


A river of fresh insulation fibres flows up a converor belt.

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