Mineral wool industry pushes for recovery funds to be spent on building, despite concerns about their insulation material

As the European Union plans for Europe’s recovery from the pandemic, the mineral wool industry is investing in public affairs campaigns to position their insulation material as part of an energy performance solution to meeting the 2030 emissions targets.

This is despite the fact that the insulation material has been the subject of health concerns for those installing, removing and disposing of it, as well as residents living close to mineral wool production facilities in France and the United States.

In October, the CEOs of seven mineral wool construction companies, including Rockwool, Saint-Gobain and Knauf, as well as the Director General of their industry association EURIMA, published an opinion piece on 'Energy performance in buildings is key to meeting 2030 emissions target'. Among other things, they called for 36% of the EU recovery funds to be spend on buildings, on the basis of the sector's share of emissions. The EU's so-called Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) will provide Member States with up to €672.5bn in funding intended to support the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Every Member State must ensure that at least 37% of spending in its national recovery plan is aligned with the overall green transition.

This was preceded in September by EURIMA, the lobbying organisation of the mineral wool industry, sending an open letter on 'The importance of Minimum Energy Performance Standards to spur the Renovation Wave' to the European Commission, together with the European Climate Foundation and the NGOs European Environmental Bureau, Climate Action Network Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe. EURIMA and the European Climate Foundation also jointly organised a webinar on the issue, with Pernille Weiss, a conservative Member of the European Parliament from Denmark. The European Climate Foundation describes itself as a major philanthropic initiative. It is known as an influential financier of NGO activities and has registered €700,000 – just under €800,000 as its own EU lobbying budget for 2019.

This picture stands in contrast with the opposition that the mineral wool industry is facing in the United States and in France, where local residents oppose the building of new factories on environmental and health grounds, in the belief that the mineral wool production facilities will cause pollution, endangering the health of the surrounding population. It also fails to take into account the health concerns raised by the final product as installed in homes and other buildings, raised by medical experts such as Dr Marjoleine Drent.

It also seems that there is some misunderstanding about the exact nature of mineral wool. The product is widely known, perhaps more fittingly, as Manmade Vitreous Fibres (MMVF). This material is made from glass, rock, slag or clay. Therefore referring to it as a kind of wool is perhaps intended to confer a more “natural” image than the material really merits. The Foundation and NGOs do appear to mistake EURIMA, the "European Insulation Manufacturers Association" as a being a comprehensive representative of nature-based rather than manufactured insulation materials.

Whatever the efforts of the industry to be part of the RRF story, it is essential that environmental and health concerns about mineral wool be closely examined.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon


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