- Strengthening common understanding to enhance the PU foam recycling value chain
- Further development of waste markets for highly efficient recycling
- Recycling of upholstered furniture foam planned at a later stage
Materials manufacturer Covestro and Eco-mobilier, a French eco-organization and non-profit extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemer for the collection and recycling of used furniture, aspire to generate enhanced value aiming at mattresses and upholsteries. Both parties want to further develop waste markets for foam used in such applications, to enable its use in chemical recycling processes with high efficiency at an industrial level. Furthermore, the parties underline their commitment through an agreement, which sets out a common understanding of strategic goals, projects and activities, forming the basis for a long-term cooperation between them.
Year after year, large quantities of used furniture are generated worldwide that have to be disposed of. Covestro and Eco-mobilier want to keep it out of landfill and minimize incineration, thus reduce its environmental impact and give it a new life. For this purpose, they want to combine their expertise and jointly develop a new solution and a business model for the chemical recycling of polyurethane foam from post-consumer mattresses and upholsteries.
Eco-mobilier has extensive experience in the collection, logistics and processing of used furniture, such as mattresses and upholsteries. This mainly concerns the dismantling of used furniture and presorting materials in order to obtain pure foam parts as raw materials for recycling. A key topic of the collaboration is to further develop the decentralized dismantling process of mattresses to avoid ecologically unfavorable transport of the foam parts to the chemical recycling plant. At a later stage, the partners also plan to evaluate possibilities and develop a corresponding process for recycling upholstered furniture with polyurethane foams.
“For ten years, Eco-mobilier has been acting to set up and improve a specific scheme for End of Life PU foam collecting and recycling. The partnership between Eco-mobilier and Covestro will allow to increase and to diversify the existing solutions for the chemical recycling of PU foam and to extend the perspectives for a material which had been considered, yet recently, as non recyclable. Especially, by experiencing padded furniture recycling with Covestro, Eco-mobilier is delighted to start a new stage of development of its strategy targetting of ´zero landfilling´ for furniture,” said Dominique Mignon, President of the French organisation.
Innovative process to recover both main PU components
As part of its new collaboration with Eco-mobilier, Covestro intends to make use of a novel process compared to other chemical recycling approaches, which it has developed for recycling the foam chemically. The technology has competitive advantages as it allows the recovery of both core raw materials originally used. To this end, the company also operates a pilot plant for flexible foam recycling at its site in Leverkusen, Germany, which is used for test purposes.
“We are thrilled to complement Eco-mobilier´s unique expertise in furniture recycling with our chemical recycling technology in this powerful partnership,” says Dr. Christine Mendoza-Frohn, Executive Vice President & Head of Sales EMLA for Performance Materials at Covestro. “The strategic intent of our collaboration is to design and validate a joint pilot model to encourage and make real an accelerated adoption of recycling and reusing polyurethane foams from used furniture in Europe and beyond.”
Created in December 2011 by 12 retailers and 12 manufacturers of the furniture market, Eco-mobilier is the eco-organisation approved by the public authorities with goal to manage the collection, sorting and recycling of all end of life furniture as well as to promote its re-use all over the French territory. To fulfill this mission, the eco-participation is applied to the purchase of new furniture since May 1, 2013. In 2021, Eco-mobilier will collect nearly 1.2 million tons of used furniture, 95 percent of which will be recycled, with the aim of achieving ZERO waste for furniture by 2023.
With 2020 sales of EUR 10.7 billion, Covestro is among the world’s leading polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative, sustainable solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. In doing so, Covestro is fully committed to the circular economy. The main industries served are the automotive and transportation industries, construction, furniture and wood processing, as well as electrical, electronics, and household appliances industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. At the end of 2020, Covestro has 33 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,500 people (calculated as full-time equivalents).