CAN POLYURETHANES BE RECYCLED?
Yes, all polyurethanes can be recycled.
However, the most environmentally sound choice may not always be recycling. Recycling requires a
great deal of energy and, in some cases, the most sensible option is energy recovery. In the EU, this is achieved
through clean and careful incineration, whereby pollutants are filtered out and energy is produced as a result of
the combustion process.
The impending laws about recycling in the automotive industry, and the
availability of scrap polyurethane foam that can be processed at reasonable costs, are catching the interest
of molded foam manufacturers regarding the possibility to use recycled foam in the production of new PU foam
Generally speaking, for all foam manufacturers the availability of
inexpensive raw material for their foam plant can improve the foam manufacturing process economics.
Therefore, both processes must be looked at separately with respect to recycling. Using some PU recycled
content in manufacturing new foam is not incompatible with rebound operation, and in fact it may be
complementary, since the two processes share several steps.
Commonly, high-pressure machines processing filled Polyol suffer wear of mechanical parts
such as piston pumps and injection nozzles. It is usually suggested to use filled raw materials only with machines
equipped with metering cylinders and hardened nozzles. However, this kind of machine requires complicated and
expensive solutions in order to fit the fast cycle time requested in the production of seats and head-rests for
Companies have also investigated the possibility to use recycled powered polyurethanes. For
this reason, following the proven efficiency of the Companies axial injection technology, already successfully
implemented for mixing color paste, and with the well-known AX multi-components mixing head, Company’s engineers
applied those concepts in designing the new filler injection system. Filled Polyol is injected in the mixing
chamber along the pouring piston axis and, therefore, perpendicularly to the streams of the two main
The obtained results are most interesting for the flexible molded foam manufacturers
supplying molded PU products to the automotive industry. In particular, recycled PU powder can be used in even
higher percentages for the production of car-seat backs and head rests, where the requirements in terms of
mechanical and physical properties of the foam are less demanding than in car-seat
Reaching this goal, Companies has exploited its experience in setting up
innovative injection processes for special applications to develop a kit suitable for a wide range of solid
fillers. The development of an injection kit for filled components, versatile enough to be implemented on
existing machines, could obtain the consensus of the automotive industry, as well as address the new
regulations and demand in terms of recycling.
The equipment developed by Companies is able to meter and mix three-component slurry. High-solid-content slurry,
obtained by blending ultra fine recycled polyurethane powder in non-catalyzed Polyol as the carrier, is fed as a
third stream at low-medium pressure to a mixing head via the axial port of the mixing chamber originally used for
metering color paste.