ICI Polyurethanes is investing £1 million ($1.62 million) to set up an 11 million-pound-per-year pilot chemical recycling plant in Britain for polyurethanes.
The plant, to be sited at Hoddesdon, England is the first of its kind to produce high-quality polyols from flexible-foam waste, according to ICI Polyurethanes of Everberg, Belgium. The unit will begin operating late next year.
ICI said that the plant is the latest phase of a five-year development program, using its split-phase glycolysis recycling technology. The aim is to establish a full-scale 11 million-pound-per-year plant to recycle PU foam used in mattresses, furniture and automotive seat cushioning.
The pilot project is a joint venture between the company, part of London-based chemicals group Imperial Chemical Industries plc, and du Vergier Ltd., of Hoddesdon, at whose premises the plant will be located.
ICI already has a joint venture with du Vergier, which has global experience of recycling acrylics. ICI Polyurethanes will provide the recycling process technology.
So far, ICI has conducted laboratory research and batch recycling tests of as much as 4,400 pounds, and the pilot plant will allow semicontinuous process trials, according to Denis Hicks, ICI Polyurethanes' slab-stock technology manager.
``We are now confident in ICI Polyurethanes' split-phase glycolysis process. This is a four-year project and is an essential step towards developing a commercial recycling plant,'' Hicks said.
He explained that other PU recycling processes so far have failed to separate the polyol content of PU waste from the isocyanate bond cleanly. This has resulted in poorer quality recyclate and has limited its applications.
The ICI process is designed to handle all methylene diphenyl diisocyanate-based PU slab stock. ICI Polyurethanes is a leading producer of PU chemicals and systems based on MDI.