Indre firefighters isolate their barracks with their old uniforms

Posted on 18 June 2019.

Have you ever wondered what happens to firefighters’ uniforms? France’s Indre-based firefighters make them into high-performance insulation panels.

Recycling firefighters' old uniforms to make insulation boards... A great idea thought up by Paul Malassigné, the commander of the fire department in the Indre area of central France. For as surprising as it may seem, firefighters’ old uniforms are usually collected and sent to landfill.
Two metric tons of textiles are thrown away every year in the Indre alone, and nearly 500 metric tons across France says Commandant Paul Malassigné. A huge waste, especially since these uniforms are both expensive and have some interesting properties – they are resistant to heat and fire because they are made using aramid fiber.

20 uniforms make 10 m2 of insulation

Because these fibers can’t be used to make new uniforms, Paul Malassigné decided to give them a second life by recycling them to make insulation. He called on the expertise of a recycling company in Lille. "The uniforms are collected and shredded. 60 cm by 1.20 m panels are made and then used to insulate the firefighters’ barracks," explains the commander. It takes twenty outfits to make 10 m2 of insulation. In addition to its insulating properties, the fire resistant fiber also performs well in terms of sound insulation and thermal shift (the ability of materials to slow heat transfer) which levels out any peaks in heat.
Although the still experimental project is currently being certified, several barracks have already been equipped with these new panels – and according to Commandant Paul Malassigné they perform better than conventional insulation materials.

This circular innovation has resulted in the Indre firefighters winning the Local Government Trophy awarded by Europe 1 as part of its 2019 Future Trophies – a competition for eco-responsible initiatives.