Circular Polyol

Industrial Plant for Chemical Recycling of Waste Mattresses

Publieke samenvatting / Public summary

In EU each year around 30 million mattresses are discarded, containing approximately 168 000 MT of polyurethane (PU) material which is not bio-degradable. Currently the majority of this bulky waste-stream ends up in landfill, the remainder being incinerated to produce heat and electricity, which is the preferred technology for the treatment of EoL (end-of-life) PU foam. However, incineration is an additional point of source of CO2 generation and waste of valuable resources. To address this challenge RENUVA™ is implementing closed-loop manufacturing that can be used for PU plastics. At current stage, RENUVA™ will address flexible foam industry. RetourMatras with its partners developed an end-of-life solution to deal with post-consumer waste of flexible PU foam. Recycling of PU foams and building a recycling supply chain poses unique challenges. Today markets for products from mechanical recycling such as re-bonded foam to go into carpet underlays, sport-mats, cow mattresses etc. have been developed but are rather low value, while market size is small and in decline. Therefore, alternative solutions for waste mattresses will need to be developed.

RetourMatras and H&S Anlagentechnik are committed to come up with an innovative solutions to solve challenges of today and therefore entered into collaboration to find a new economical way to recycle post-consumer mattresses waste. The goal of this project is to implement a first industrial scale reactor which converts end-of-life (waste) mattresses back to main chemical building block of its polymer - polyol. This secondary (circular) polyol will be used as a high value constituent of new PU foam formulations in different applications, such as flexible foams in mattresses or rigid foam for thermal insulation. The polyol produced from waste mattresses represents > 35% CO2 reduction compare to the conventional polyol used. Additionally, this project is a clear demonstration that polyurethane based mattresses can be recycled and the PU foam is a valuable source of new raw materials without down cycling.

Korte omschrijving
RetourMatras as an experienced recycling company is already collecting 400 000 waste mattresses annually in Lelystad, dismantling and recycling them by traditional technologies. RetourMatras will operate an innovative process where shredded PU foam will be fed into the reactor to undergo a chemical de-polymerisation and conversion into main chemical building block for polyurethanes. (The reactor and technological process know-how is provided by H&S Anlagentechnik). As a result of the process, liquid polyol product will be obtained.

The idea of converting PU foams to polyols is not new but has never been capitalized and implemented due to value chain and technological complexity. RENUVA™ differentiates by the unique technological process and know-how that brings economic value to the secondary polyol and collaboration through the whole value chain. The first reactor will save 4 088 tons of CO2 annually which represents 20 440 tons of CO2 emissions savings in the next 5 years. The approximate energy gain is 114 000 GJ. After successful implementation of the first pilot, the technology industrial partners will focus on scale up and leveraging the technology to other locations and thus strongly contribute to the EU climate change mitigation and circular economy goals. The circular polyol obtained can be tailored for any application of PU foams by optimization of the recipe for circular polyol. At present the focus is on two different outlets. The circular polyol will be reacted with diisocyanate to create either PU flexible foam for mattresses or PIR (Polyisocyanurate) thermal insulation boards also known as DBL (Double Band Lamination) flexible faced panels for the construction industry.