Materials supplier Covestro and Eco-mobilier, a nonprofit group that organizes collection and recycling services for used furniture and mattresses, have joined forces in an effort to further develop waste markets for polyurethane foam.
The two signed a collaboration agreement designed to form the basis for a long-term partnership aimed at generating value from discarded upholstered furniture and mattresses at the end of life.
In a news release, Covestr and Eco-mobilier noted that year after year, large quantities of used furniture are generated worldwide that must be disposed of in some way. Landfills and incineration are currently the most common routes for disposal of these products..
The two companies are combining their expertise to develop a business model to chemically recycle the PU foam.
As an accredited extended producer responsibility organization, Eco-mobilier has extensive experience in the collection, logistics and processing of used furniture and mattresses and upholsteries. It will collect nearly 1.2 million tons of used furniture, 95 percent of which will be recycled, with the aim of achieving zero waste for furniture by 2023.
Its main activities are dismantling used furniture and presorting materials in order to obtain pure foam parts as raw materials for recycling.
Covestro has developed chemical recycle to recover PU foam and return it to its two constituent ingredients: polyol and toluene diamine (TDA), which is the precursor to toluene diisocyanate (TDI). The technology builds on the company’s participation in the PUReSmart project, a Europewide research project which is coordinated by Recticel, which sought to significantly improve the recycling of and establish a completely circular product lifecycle for polyurethane foam.
The recycling process starts with the collection of used mattresses, which are dismantled, with the foam parts separated out. An important part of the collaboration will be to further develop the decentralized dismantling process of mattresses to avoid having to transport he foam parts to the chemical recycling plant. Some of these foams contain additives and fillers that make reprocessing more difficult. Covestro has developed an intelligent sorting solution for separating the different PU foams from post-consumer mattresses. The software uses algorithms to correctly identify the different foam types, which promotes an effective recycling process.
"The partnership between Eco-mobilier and Covestro will allow to increase and to diversify the existing solutions for the chemical recycling of PU foam and to extend the perspectives for a material which had been considered, yet recently, as non recyclable,” said Dominique Mignon, president of the French organization.
"We are thrilled to complement Eco-mobilier´s unique expertise in furniture recycling with our chemical recycling technology in this powerful partnership,”added Christine Mendoza-Frohn, executive vice president and head of regional sales for performance materials at Covestro. "The strategic intent of our collaboration is to design and validate a joint pilot model to encourage and make real an accelerated adoption of recycling and reusing polyurethane foams from used furniture in Europe and beyond."