Grodan recycling service

After a season of productive vegetable growing the growing media consist of useful raw materials for next life applications. Therefore, a recycling process is beneficial for the parties involved and growers play an important role in the successful recovery of these raw materials. That’s why we created this document, to provide growers using Grodan growing media with best practices and relevant information to organise the handling, recycling and disposal of used Grodan substrate.

recycling, infographic, cucumbers, tomatos, circle, grodan

Preparation of used substrate for the recycling process

After the growing season the used substrate are made available for the recycler.

Optimization of the recycling process starts already during the cropping period. Proper crop management in the 6th phase of the Grodan 6-PHASE model enables a decrease of total recycling costs and increases the quality of reusable substrate granulate (RSG). In this phase water content is reduced as root activity decreases because of the crop’s declining performance, but still enables steering of the remaining substrate water content. With low water content in the substrate at the end of the cropping period, only a minimal amount of valuable nutrients will be lost. A low water content also results in optimisation of transport costs. 

Why is the water content of the used substrate important?

For recycling purposes the water content of the substrate slabs is most optimal at approximately 20% (v/v, measured with GroSens Multisensor) before cutting-off the crops (maximum crop stem is 3 centimeter). A slab with dimensions 100x20x7.5cm with ideal water content weighs approximately 3 kilograms.

Too low water content in used substrate will result in: 

  • dust formation during handling in the recycling process. A minimal moisture content of 15% (w/w) is advised to prevent this
  • less breakdown of the substrate structure resulting in a lower density of the used substrate. The lower the density, the lower the volume, the lower the costs of transportation.

Too high water content in used substrate will result in:

  • a higher residual water fraction. As water treatment is expensive, the total recycling costs will increase. It is better to reuse the water (containing useful components) in the greenhouse
  • a higher risk of uncontrolled water leachate emissions into the environment as, during storage and transportation, leachate may be lost.

Characteristics and safety of the used substrates

Approximately 52m3 of EOL substrate will become available from each hectare of greenhouse area. This used substrate material can be considered as virgin material containing nutrient solution and organic material mainly from plant roots. The composition of the nutrient solution is dependent on the growers’ recipes and the end of growing season procedure. An idea of the estimated composition and characteristics of the Grodan substrate and the separated fractions in the various phases can be found in the Grodan Recycling Manual.

Recycling partners

We continuously initiate, facilitate and manage recycling initiatives worldwide. Especially in Europe we gained a lot of knowledge and experience in reuse, recycling and upcycling of used stone wool products. R&D, continuous improvement and eco-design will offer the opportunity to extend the range of stone wool recycling loops in the future.