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18-03-2019 | Production + Production Technology | News | Article

Research Project on Recycling Polyurethane Plastics

Dr. Hubert Pelc
1:30 min reading time

A research project supported by the European Union is investigating how the recycling of polyurethane plastics can be improved. The goal is to develop a complete product life-cycle.

Materials manufacturer Covestro is part of the new Europe-wide research project "PUReSmart", which comprises nine companies and academic institutions from six countries. The aim of the project is to transform polyurethane into a truly sustainable material using a complete product life-cycle. The research project will run for four years and will receive six million euros in funding from the European Union under the "Horizon 2020" research and innovation programme. The project, which is coordinated by the Belgian company Recticel, aims to recover 90 per cent of the used polyurethane in order to obtain building blocks for existing or new products. The aim is to develop a new polymer that combines the durability of thermosets with the recyclability of thermoplastics. In order for efficient chemical recycling to succeed, intelligent sorting methods are required.

Obtaining high-quality raw materials

As part of the project, Covestro is working on the best possible chemical recycling of polyurethanes after they have been used and on the qualitative processing of the material flows generated in this way. The aim is to obtain high-quality raw materials for new polyurethane applications. "Polyurethanes are a particularly versatile and widely used class of plastics that provide comfort and safety in many applications worldwide and, as an insulating material, contribute to energy savings and thus to sustainability," says Dr. Nikola Schuck, who heads Covestro's contributions to PUReSmart. "Now it's time to increase the sustainable value of the material at the end of its useful life."

In addition to Covestro (Germany) and Recticel (Belgium), the companies BT-Wolfgang Binder (Austria), WeylChem InnoTec (Germany), Ecoinnovazione SRL (Italy) and Ayming (France) are involved in the PUReSmart consortium, which stands for a seamless and complete value-added chain in polyurethane reprocessing. Other academic partners are the University of Ghent (Belgium), KU Leuven (Belgium) and the Universidad de Castilla – La Mancha (Spain).

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