Covestro says investment boosts polyurethane recycling

Latest: Germany-based polymer producer Covestro says it is working to “fully engage circularity and help make it a global guiding principle” as it develops technology to reuse plastics and Bring it back into the value loop, “usually in close collaboration with partners”.

A new collaboration between Covestro and the Swiss backpack and messenger bag manufacturer Freitag aims to
“Infinite recycling of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)-based truck tarpaulins”. At the end of their useful life, the truck covers will be recycled through a chemical recycling process and used in new truck covers or other products, the company said.

Covestro said that so far it has focused on obtaining materials through well-established mechanical recycling. More recently, it sees chemical recycling processes, which use chemical methods to break down polymer molecules, as a way forward.

Covestro calls mechanical recycling “particularly suitable for polycarbonate,” and it says that many of Covestro’s corresponding products are already on the market, including polycarbonate blends for IT applications, with up to 75 percent recycled material.

“Furthermore, new plastic products are designed from the outset to be easier to recycle at the end of their useful life,” the company said.

A consortium of industry partners in the Circular Foam project is working on a chemical recycling process for rigid polyurethane foam, and according to Covestro, it is directing the work.

Polyurethane (PU) and other thermosets are difficult to recycle mechanically, according to Covestro, which calls chemical processes the “obvious choice” for polyurethane. As part of a research project with partners, Covestro said it has developed an innovative technology for recycling two of the core raw materials in polyurethane mattress foam.

These materials, polyol and isocyanate TDI, are used to produce mattress foam. These two raw materials can be reused to produce new foams after reprocessing. “The results achieved so far are being tested in a pilot plant in Leverkusen, Germany,” said the company, which has introduced the Evoccycle brand name for the project.

Covestro is working with Interseroh, a recycling company owned by the Alba Group, to develop the collection and processing of recyclables so that it can eventually be offered to Covestro for chemical recycling. Covestro is pursuing similar goals in a partnership with French environmental protection group Eco-mobilier, which specializes in the collection and recycling of old furniture.

The recycling foam research project consists of 22 industrial partners from 9 countries and is coordinated by Covestro. “Over the next four years, experts from science, industry and society hope to develop a comprehensive solution model for waste management and recycling of such foams,” the company said.

The company estimates that recycling foam efforts have the potential to divert as much as 1 million tonnes of waste a year in Europe for recycling.