REDWAVE provides sorting technology for PUReSmart project to improve PU lifecycle
Consortium focused on chemical recycling to recover 90 percent of end-of-life polyurethane in Europe
REDWAVE is part of the newly initiated PUReSmart project in Europe that aims to change and improve the current polyurethane lifecycle through applicable methods that will transform the component into a more sustainable material.
Linear economy is a process which has been normalized through several decades. It consists in turning natural resources into products that are taken for disposal once they are not useful anymore. Or can they still be usable in a proper way? It depends on the action that follows. By taking initiatives such as recycling and reusing, the social and environmental impact decreases.
According to REDWAVE, many organizations and companies all around the European Union are concerned about providing solutions regarding the issue. Reducing the consumption and, therefore, the generation of waste is also another alternative. These actions are fundamental premises of the circular economy.
Because polyurethane (PU) is a thermoset polymer, PU foams such as mattresses and upholstery are extremely difficult to recycle. In fact, most of them are sent to landfills or to incineration plants with energy recuperation, and little is recycled mechanically.
The PUReSmart project rises to the challenge of implementing technologies focused on an efficient chemical recycling process. This is only possible due to a consortium constituted by nine members from six European countries that will be developing smart sorting technologies to separate EoL PU materials in order to create new PU products. Competent companies in the field are taking part, each institution contributing in a different way, REDWAVE is the company in charge of providing automated sorting solutions in order to recover PU foams from waste streams, in this way, the demand for raw materials and waste is reduced.
The smart sorting strategy will last four years during which partners will be working together with the final goal being to recover 90% of the end-of-life PU material. The investment of 6 million Euros is funded by the European Union within the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.
Katharina Ander, member of REDWAVE's R&D team, explains, "within the PUReSmart project we are testing different sensors to find the best solution to differentiate the PU foams. Thanks to the broad chemical knowledge of the consortium, we have a solid database. At the end of the project, our technology will be able to sort the end-of-life PU foams into different fractions. These fractions will subsequently be fed to either chemical or mechanical recycling processes. And of course, we are aiming high: Despite the large volume of the foams, we want to be able to handle high feed rates to make PU recycling economically feasible."
According to REDWAVE, if we look closely into the topic, linear consumption is already unsustainable for our planet. It is time to unit attempts in favour of our environment and support actions focused on improving our present and sowing the seed for a more sustainable future.