Can furniture foam be recycled?

Where can I recycle keys

There is waste, such as paper or glass, about which there is little doubt: we know in which container it should be deposited for proper recycling.  However, where should polyurethane materials be disposed of? Is it a recyclable material?

Nothing could be further from the truth, polyurethane is a recyclable material and can be reused in a multitude of products. Moreover, not only polyurethane products can be recycled, but also rigid insulating foam can be recycled.

A typical example of how polyurethane recycling is present in everyday life is the polyurethane foam used in car seats: the polyurethane foam inside the seats is reused in cushions for furniture, beds and home carpets. It is also possible to recycle the polyurethane used in bumpers, which, if properly treated, can be transformed into insulating filler material for construction.

Consequently, the possibilities for recycling polyurethane are becoming increasingly broad. Work is currently underway to transform polyurethane into playground flooring, buoyancy aids, hydroponic mats or oil/liquid absorption uses.

How to recycle polyurethane foam

Recycling polyurethane foam is essential. Polyurethane foam waste from production and construction is too valuable to end up in a landfill. It can be ground up and reprocessed into other insulation products or energy recovered by replacing fossil fuels.

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When PU reaches the end of its life after many decades of use, it enters the waste stream with other building products. From IPUR we want to address the different fronts in which the Polyurethane Industry participates in waste management and R&D in solutions to improve processes.

Polyurethane insulation is 97 % insulation gas captured in closed foam cells and is therefore extremely lightweight. Its share in total non-mineral construction and demolition waste should be around 0.3 % (figure for Germany) and around 0.05 % in total construction and demolition waste (estimate for France and UK).  Their lifetime is closely linked to that of buildings and building renovation cycles.

Polyurethane recycling center

Polyurethane is a material obtained from the chemical reaction of two elements, polyol and isocyanate. The resulting foam is a very versatile product, used in furniture, mattresses, footwear, medical devices, moldings… providing durability and lightness in all cases. Its contribution to improving the energy efficiency of residential and industrial buildings is also invaluable, given its excellent insulating capacity, as well as in the insulation of cold rooms and refrigerated vehicles. It therefore makes it possible to achieve more sustainable buildings.

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But polyurethane itself is also sustainable: its production produces a very small amount of CO2 emissions, so its environmental impact is reduced. If we add to this the fact that its application as an insulator avoids many more emissions than it generates, we are undoubtedly dealing with a sustainable material.

On the other hand, a large part of the raw material used to manufacture polyurethane insulating foam comes from the chemical recycling of polyurethane waste: that is, the chemical conversion of polyurethanes to produce polyols and thus achieve second-life applications. Thus, about 30% of the polyols used to obtain rigid polyurethane foam can come from this recycling, without affecting their performance in any way.

Where to recycle fabric

Polyurethane in its different forms has become an indispensable material in our lives and polyurethane as a material to create clothes, mattresses or bags has become a success because of its sustainability.

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People are becoming more and more aware of the importance of caring for the environment and using products that can be recycled as is the case of polyurethane, both in pure pieces and in polyurethane foam.

Polyurethane is a material obtained from the chemical reaction of two elements, polyol and isocyanate. The resulting foam is a very versatile product, used in furniture, mattresses, footwear, medical devices, moldings… providing durability, lightness and sustainability in all cases.

In addition, polyurethane is recyclable, as is polyurethane foam. Once the recycled polyurethane waste has been ground and reprocessed, it can be used to manufacture high-density polyurethane panels that replace wood and its agglomerate. The advantage is that polyurethane, being an inert material, is not affected by humidity or microorganisms.