Improving Polyurethane Recycling

Improving Polyurethane Recycling


Thermoset polyurethane (PU) products such as flexible and rigid foams are long-lasting, durable, and useful in many different applications. They are among the six most important plastic materials produced worldwide. Compared with thermoplastic materials, recycling thermoset PU is much more challenging.

The new Europe-wide research project “PUReSmart” (PolyUrethane Recycling towards a Smart Circular Economy) aims to recover 90 % of the used PU to create building blocks for existing or new products. The project consortium will develop smart sorting technologies to separate various PU materials into dedicated feedstocks. These feedstocks will then be broken down into their basic components as inputs for existing PU products, and as raw materials for a newly designed polymer that merges the durability of thermosets with the circularity of thermoplastics.

PUReSmart will run for four years and will receive six million euros from the European Union under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 814543). It is an end-to-end collaboration spanning the entire polyurethane reprocessing value chain. Six companies (Ayming (France), Covestro (Germany), BT-Wolfgang Binder (Austria), Ecoinnovazione SRL (Italy), Recticel (Belgium), WeylChem InnoTec (Germany)) are involved in the PUReSmart consortium as well as three academic partners (University of Ghent (Belgium), KU Leuven (Belgium), Universidad de Castilla – La Mancha (Spain)). The project is coordinated by Recticel.


Recticel NV, the coordinator of the project, is a large-scale manufacturer of polyurethane products used in several markets and will preserve valuable raw materials.
Covestro Deutschland AG, a world-leading manufacturer of high-tech polymer materials, will develop pathways to recovering basic PU building blocks.
BT-Wolfgang Binder GmbH, with its Redwave trademark, offers expertise in the sensor-based smart sorting of end-of-life materials, through which waste streams can be graded into valuable fractions.
WeylChem InnoTec GmbH is a contract development and custom synthesis company that will develop new building blocks for PU and, within the WeylChem Group of companies, scale-up capabilities for these new chemicals.
Ecoinnovazione SRL, a research and consultancy firm in the field of lifecycle sustainability assessment, will develop sustainable assessment and strategies with a lifecycle approach that takes social impact into account.
Ghent University will develop new molecules for recyclable materials that must be adapted to polyurethane chemistries.
KU Leuven has a long history in catalysis expertise and will develop routes to break down thermoset materials and recuperate their basic components.
Universidad De Castilla – La Mancha will support the project with its experience in recycling thermoset PU and its capabilities in scaling up chemical processes.
Ayming will provide project management support and guide internal and external communication initiatives with the goal of maximizing the results and outcomes of the project.


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