Thermoset PU products are among the six most important plastic materials produced. They can appear as flexible and rigid foams and are long-lasting, durable and useful in many different applications. Compared to thermoplastics however, recycling thermoset PU is a challenge.
The PUReSmart collaborative consortium gathers nine partners from six different countries and seeks ways of transitioning from the current linear lifecycle of polyurethane (PU) products to a circular economy model. The target is to recover over 90% of end-of-life PU with the goal of converting it into valuable inputs for new and known products. To make this possible, smart sorting technologies will be developed to separate a diverse range of PU materials into dedicated feedstocks. These feedstocks will 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.
The PUReSmart consortium is an end-to-end collaboration spanning the entire polyurethane reprocessing value chain, and comprises both industrial players and dedicated research partners. Recticel NV (a large-scale manufacturer of polyurethane products) is the coordinator of the project.
Other consortium partners are Covestro Deutschland AG (manufacturer of high-tech polymer materials), BT-Wolfgang Binder GmbH (expert in the sensor-based smart sorting of end-of-life materials), WeylChem InnoTec GmbH (contract development and custom synthesis company), Ecoinnovazione SRL (research and consultancy firm in the field of lifecycle sustainability assessment), Ghent University (development of new molecules for recyclable materials), KU Leuven (catalysis expertise), Universidad De Castilla – La Mancha (experience in recycling thermoset PU), Ayming (project management support and communication).
The PUReSmart project was launched on 1 January 2019 for a duration of four years. It is supported by € 6 million in funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.