Geyser blanket made from waste material

Submitted by: Margaret McKenzie, Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Eco Smart geyser blanket made out of waste material is one of the latest inventions of the Eco Smart group. The idea of a geyser blanket made out of waste material came from one of Eco Smart’s clients in the hotel sector explains Lise Kuhle, owner of Eco Smart. Kuhle immediately took up the idea and discussed it with a range of service providers and clients who provided numerous suggestions and advice on raw materials and the manufacturing process. Through this collaborative process a final design was settled on resulting in a product that will be sold into distribution at a lower cost than its virgin equivalent says Kuhle.

The innovation of making a geyser blanket out of waste material has been recognised by the South African Plastics Recyclers Organisation 2012 Best Recycled Product of the Year Competition. The blanket won the Gold Award in the novel and artist category. Judges for the awards were impressed by the geyser blanket because of its relevance to energy saving and its low price compared to other geyser blankets despite the labour intensity of the manufacturing process.

The geyser blanket is made from three waste components:

  1. Post industrial waste Polypropylene (PP) Foil. Examples of which are chip and peanut packets: This is used to make the outside foil cover of the geyser blanket.
  2. Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) fibre: This is used to make the insulating material that enables the geyser blanket to keep a geyser warm.
  3. Strips of discarded Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). Examples of which are old building wraps: This is used to bind the foil outer to the insulating material made from PET fibre.

Eco Smart purchases the recycled PET fibre used for the insulation, but the other waste materials are normally secured at no cost. Kuhle works with a network of recyclers in Johannesburg who generally provide the PP foil free of charge to avoid landfilling the waste.  The PVC from old bill boards and building wraps are also provided free of charge to Eco Smart since there is no method of recycling this type of PVC into new material in South Africa because of an inner mesh in the product explains Kuhle. 

The geyser blanket production process starts with manual heat sealing of the PP Foil into strips. This heat sealing is done by disabled workers in the Reigher Park Disabled Centre.  The foil strips are then sent to an insulation company that glues the PET Fibre to the foil strips with fire retardant glue.  The Eco Smart workshop then cuts the sheets to size and binds the blankets with PVC strips.  

Almost every part of the geyser blanket is made from waste material. The only item “that is not recycled is the cotton that we stitch with” says Kuhle. She has done some research into recycled replacements for cotton but needs higher manufacturing volumes before she can justify purchasing one of these alternatives.

The Eco Smart Group makes a range of products from recycled and up cycled waste material including recycling bins and a variety of bags including shopping and conference bags. Kuhle estimates that the Eco Smart Group currently diverts about half a ton of waste from landfills every month. 

The latest addition to the Eco Smart range is a dog bed. The dog beds are filled with off cuts from the geyser blanket manufacture process as well as foam waste that is currently being dumped. “We are trying to get to a situation where we have zero waste [from our workshop]” says Kuhle.  

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Margaret McKenzie