The European Union, with the aim of conserving resources, protecting the environment and overseeing the health and welfare of their citizens, has been opting for some years now for sustainable development as one of its top priorities. The reduction of energy consumption has been identified as one of the aspects that can contribute most in this respect. This is why the EU has financed the Vacuum Insulating Panels (VIP) project, one in which GAIKER has participated in and the object of which is to enhance conventional thermal insulation materials used in buildings, packaging for the isothermal transport of products and for use in fridges and freezers.
Thus, the “Development of Super Vacuum Insulating Panels and Product Integration Services” (VIP Product & Service) project, initiated in 2001 and recently concluded, has concentrated on the design and development of a thermal insulation panel wrapping which is made of a laminate of several layers of plastic and vacuum sealed, (in contrast to the method traditionally employed of increasing thermal insulation based simply on increasing the thickness of the insulating material).
This new form of panel will provide between 5 and 7 times the insulation capacity over current technologies, with the added advantage that it does not require a modification of its thickness nor a reduction in the useful volume of the transport unit or storage element.
GAIKER’s contribution to this consortium has targeted the development of a technology for recycling the new VIPs, both in wastage and rejects generated during their manufacture, as well as the products incorporate into them and that reach the end of their useful life.
From a recycling perspective, VIPs are complex products as they have a multilayer film that is sealed to conserve the vacuum and a monomaterial block or panel. They also sometimes include an absorbent making up its core and a non-material part – the vacuum – that provides the desired thermal properties.
After several trials, a plan was put forward for the recovery of materials during the manufacture stage of the VIPs and specific management procedures were put into place for new products incorporated into the panels, in accordance with its category as waste. GAIKER has also assessed environmental factors and demonstrated that incorporating VIPs results in a considerable environmental benefit, given that these manage to more than double the service life of the isothermal wrappings and reduce energy consumption by almost 10% of the whole life-span (considered to be fifteen years usage) of a fridge.
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