European project to study chemical recycling of polyurethanes

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A 6 million euro European research project is investigating how to significantly improve the recycling of polyurethane plastics, employing methods such as chemical recycling technologies.

Coordinated by Belgian company Recticel, the four-year PureSmart project aims to recover 90 percent of the post-consumer polyurethane in order to create building blocks for existing or new products.

Among others, the project aims to create a new polymer that combines the durability of thermosets with the recyclability of thermoplastics.

The study particularly highlights the importance of intelligent sorting methods for efficient chemical recycling.

PureSmart comprises nine companies, including PU giant Covestro AG, and academic institutions from six countries.

In a Jan. 25 statement, Covestro said it would be working on “the best possible chemical recycling of polyurethanes” along with the “qualitative treatment of the material flows that are generated during this [project]” 

"Polyurethanes are a particularly versatile and widely used class of plastics… and, as an insulating material, contribute to energy savings and thus to sustainability," said Nikola Schuck, who heads Covestro's contributions to PureSmart.

The project will now aim to “increase the sustainable value” of the material at the end of its useful life, he added.

In addition to Covestro and Recticel, the companies BT-Wolfgang Binder of Austria, WeylChem InnoTec of Germany, Ecoinnovazione srl of Italy and Ayming of France are involved in the PureSmart consortium. Other academic partners are Belgium’s University of Ghent and KU Leuven as well as Spain’s Universidad de Castilla - La Mancha.

Polyurethanes have a wide range of application, and among others are particularly used as soft and hard foams, for mattresses and upholstered furniture as well as for insulating buildings and cooling devices.

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