Today, there are more options than ever for reuse of polyurethane scrap materials, and some of these options are even available at a low cost or no cost. The use of PUs has changed considerably over the past few decades, including how it is reused when it becomes a scrap material. To some companies, PUs can be just as valuable after they have served their intended purpose and are ready to be discarded.
According to the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry's 2004 End-Use Market Survey, the PU industry experienced strong growth between 2002 and 2004. As consumer confidence in PU materials grows and the demand for more comfortable living increases, more and more PU will end up in our landfills as waste. But companies don't have to waste these materials by sending them to a landfill. PU has a high Btu value, which makes it optimal for energy recovery.
It is no surprise, with the price of natural gas reaching an all-time high, that there is an increased interest from some companies to use alternative sources of fuel. These new fuels may not only reduce cost but can also be environmentally friendly. They can reduce the volume of solid waste entering landfills and help reduce some of the dependence on fossil fuels, which may lead to conservation of some natural resources.
Post-industrial PU scrap items such as rigid foam and elastomers are just a couple of examples of the type of materials that have been targeted for this type of reuse. API has identified one facility that is taking advantage of this type of reuse today. Dynegy Midwest Generation located in Havana, Ill., uses PU scrap and other materials as alternative fuels to provide electricity to markets and customers throughout the United States. Currently, the facility can burn more than 500 tons of scrap material per day. Dynegy's goal is to identify fuels that reduce emissions, reduce costs and do not impair operations.
According to Dynegy's estimates for its process, for each ton of coal displaced by PU scrap, there is a reduction of more than 8 pounds of sulfur dioxide produced. API is working to identify facilities near Dynegy that have PU scrap materials that can be sent to their facilities to be used as an engineered fuel.
Most of the problems with alternative fuels are materials-handling related. Materials sent for reuse are often too light, misshapen or generated in an insufficient quantity to merit delivery. The solution to these problems is to have an aggregator compile the material and make the final fuel size and consistency that is ideal for the power plant.
The price for PU alternative fuels will depend on the quality and materials-handling issues, but could have an average yield of 70-75 cents per million Btu, which could equal about $16-$18 per ton delivered to the plant. All in all, it's better than a trip to the landfill!
If you are interested in learning more about this subject or have scrap PU materials you would be interested in selling, please contact Stephanie Bernard at [email protected] or tel. (703) 741-5661.
Bernard is manager of environmental, safety and health issues with the Alliance for the Polyurethanes Industry, part of the Arlington, Va.-based American Chemistry Council.