Ecocel: Sustainable Warmth Insulation
Ecocel manufactures a cellulose fibre insulating product which is produced in Cork from recycled newspaper. It is fully certified by the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the Irish Agrément Board.
John Egan took over Ecocel in 2010, purchasing it from liquidators and has spent the past number of years updating machinery and promoting the business. Two recent boosts for the company have been an appearance on RTÉ’s Eco Eye programme and a visit from Cork County Council which has agreed to offer Egan’s product as an option to those in council housing in the city.
The business was originally established in 2004 by Francis Thoma whom Egan met at a cellulose conference in England in the 1990s. “Even when we inherited the machinery, it wasn’t in a great state. It took me a year to get the business up and running again,” Egan says. The business was moved from Glanmire, outside the city, to one of the centrally-located former Ford buildings.
Egan’s history in the cellulose industry began many years ago. His parents went to India in 1952 when his father got work as an accountant at a paper mill. He worked for Andrew Yule & Co, a large conglomerate with a diverse portfolio. In 1968 the company was nationalised, and Egan’s parents returned home with the children (where the teenage John was boarding in Blackrock College). Egan’s father went on to work at Clondalkin Paper Mills.
“My inheritance came from paper so I thought I would invest it in paper,” he says. “At the time I didn’t want to put it into property and I had been in the cellulose business for a long time, having previously run an eco-building company called Healthbuild, which specialised in eco-friendly paints, cellulose insulation and radiant natural marble heaters.”
Egan was interviewed recently by Duncan Stewart on RTÉ’s Eco Eye, following which he had a visit from representatives of the local council.
“Essentially people who are housed by Cork County Council have the option to choose my cellulose product whereas previously they could only opt for the standard roll-out insulation material,” he says.
Egan hopes to use this endorsement to promote his product with other county councils across the country. He believes the change of direction by the council points to a greater acceptance of Ecocel’s cellulose insulation as a mainstream product and of a drive towards the utilisation of more environment-friendly, local products.
“The main reaction to my appearance on Eco Eye was one of surprise,” he says. “People have been very supportive in terms of the recycling and eco-aspects of the product but also of the fringe benefits, which include enhanced air quality in the dwelling and enhanced fire-proofing.”
“I want to educate people to the environmental benefits of Ecocel’s product. It’s made from recycled materials and is produced locally, which makes it a carbon-neutral product.”
Egan says that, as an environment-friendly alternative, Ecocel’s product is as cost-effective as the more commonly used fibre-glass-based insulation products. It also uses no heat or water in its production, making it a low-tech product.
“When you add in all the additional benefits for health and the environment, it is a definitely the better option for consumers,” he says.
Egan handles a lot of the day-to-day running of the business himself and has one employee with plans to take on more
The business has been entirely self-funded to date save for a €5,000 grant from Cork City Enterprise Board to test the viability of the use of the dust byproduct for use as a fertilising material. He also obtained a grant of €2,500 to upgrade his website which involved a substantial investment of his own.
The business is a labour of love for Egan for whom its eco-credentials are at the heart of his business philosophy. He believes the future looks bright as he builds his relationships with county councils and architectural firms. Future plans include the opening of local facilities around the country to keep the company’s carbon footprint low.
“It’s been stressful at time getting the building industry to recognise the benefits of the product,” he says. “But I know I made the right decision.”
Ecocel is the only Irish made cellulose product. Ecocel is also used in acoustic partitions where party walls and sound has an impact. It can be used in rock bars, lecture halls and homes.
It is the only insulation that is reusable beyond the lifespan of a building and has a low carbon footprint. As a result it can act as a carbon sink and help buildings achieve PASSIV Haus standard.
The insulation is pumped into spaces which creates an airtight seal by trained professional installers. There are health benefits associated with using natural products, they help the building breathe and its inhabitants breathe better too.’ In terms of nature conservation it is the only suitable product if you have bats, a protected species, in your attic or property.
We give of our time and expertise by being active members in the following NGOS:
- Green Building Council
- Passive House Assoc
- Cork Environmental Forum.