Sustainable Plastic Use in Nepal

About the case study:

With the support of the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and in partnership with the Asia Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund hosted an innovation capacity-building workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia, during the week commencing 29 May 2017 for organizations working in the Asia-Pacific region. The HIF and ADRRN invited newly formed and early stage partnerships, with the lead organization based in the region. This case study was developed based on the workshop.


Polyfloss insulation can be deployed as a process or as a product used in the erection of temporary shelters or to retrofit/winterise those shelters. The tech for the process is easily deployed and uses locally-sourced waste plastics, cutting supply chains and costs, contributing to local livelihoods. This innovation focuses on the application of the insulation in a response and recovery context and would be tested and developed for the winterisation of temporary/IDP shelters specifically. The testing and exploration of the versatile Polyfloss wool would also extend to those winterisation products distributed to individuals, including jackets and blankets


Existing solutions to insulating temporary shelters depend on bringing materials (e.g. insulating boards or foams) to an area and distributing them as per any other product, thus adding to local waste.

Approach / Stakeholder participation

Field Ready brings a wealth of expertise in innovation in international emergency response, supply chain analysis and innovating for efficiency, especially in a humanitarian context. Field Ready also brings practical skills in humanitarian making and significant national and international connections in design and manufacturing. Nepal Innovation Lab has experience incubating and supporting small organisations innovating in the international humanitarian and development space. The Lab uses a unique support model to guide incubated organisations to make the most from opportunities like this capacity building workshop. Rural Development Initiative also brings in technical expertise in engineering field, namely shelter construction, electronics and electrical engineering. The organization members also have experience in disaster response especially in construction of temporary shelters for survivors as well as educational institutions.
Post-disaster, or in a time of disrupted supply chains and challenges to distribution, the Polyfloss process uses waste plastics from the target area to create a product that can be processed with minimal technology and training and used in insulation with comparable results to the best performing glass fibre insulation on the wider market. The process tackles both waste and supply-chain challenges as well as efficiently meeting immediate needs in post disaster and winterisation contexts. Polyfloss can be used to produce a number of insulation products including; wall insulation boards and rolls, self-contained insulating pillows for use in roof or wall cavities, compressed blocks for underfloor insulation, roof tiles and loose wool for enclosed cavity insulation. The flexibility, versatility and environmental benefits of this product means it is in a different class to other insulation products.


The Innovation is the use of a novel plastics recycling process for building insulation and other relevant applications in post-disaster and shelter contexts. The solution uses the Polyfloss plastics recycling process to turn locally-sourced waste thermoplastics into a reusable and versatile insulating wool. Compared to glass fibre, the Polyfloss wool is more energy efficient in production, with a lower carbon footprint, not harmful to those working with it and can be adapted to be used in many more applications. For instance the wool can be used in building-scale insulation, rigid plastics production, compression moulding(eg. tiles for floors and roofs), production of string and fibre and even stuffing for padded jackets in winterisation contexts.


Winterisation and shelter needs of displaced people will be met using a cheap and immediate process that at once meets the need for insulation and also provides livelihoods, environmental benefits and potential future business opportunities for affected communities. The product can be reused. For instance, if the insulation is used in a temporary shelter it can be repurposed when the shelter is moved or a permanent shelter is erected. Because the plastics used for Polyfloss are thermoplastics they are easily reused in other ways too, for instance through heated compression moulding to make rigid plastic objects like floor tiles, roof tiles or rudimentary wall boards
The challenge facing the project is about gaining test evidence (i.e. data logged performance of the insulation) and illustrative case studies that can act as proof of concept to enable investment from the humanitarian and business community. The establishment of a viable and sustainable business model is also a key concern.