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REDWAVE part of European Green Deal project focused on advancing intelligent sorting technologies for PU rigid foams

Workers work in a development facility
A REDWAVE Circular Foam research and development facility

High-quality rigid foams are used as insulation material in refrigerators and in the construction industry. The use of this polyurethane (PU) insulating material has a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the construction sector and in heating and cooling, but at the end of its life cycle it itself becomes a problematic material in terms of recovery or disposal.

Recycling these materials can be difficult since polyurethane is a thermoset plastic and, unlike thermoplastics (PET, PP, etc.), cannot be recycled materially. Currently, the only disposal route is incineration in waste-to-energy plants or co-incineration in the cement industry.

The European Green Deal project Circular Foam aims to find a sustainable solution for PU rigid foams. The plan is to convert them back into raw material for PU production in a resource-conserving manner. In addition, a sustainable recycling system is to be created. Logistics and waste collection systems, dismantling options, and intelligent sorting solutions for identifying and recovering the various polyurethane materials are being developed so that the materials can then be chemically recycled.

For this purpose, 22 industry, research, science, and association partners from nine countries have joined forces in this EU-funded lighthouse project. REDWAVE is the project's technology partner for solutions for the detection, sorting, and recovery of the materials and provides many years of experience not only as a sorting machine manufacturer, but also as a plant manufacturer.

The project aims to establish a closed-loop value chain for rigid polyurethane foam raw materials within four years. A roll-out of this system across Europe, starting in 2040, could help save one million tons of waste, 2.9 million tons of CO2 emissions, and 150 million Euros in incineration costs each year.

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