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All eyes on mattress recycling

Remondis and chemical company Evonik are jointly targeting the foam content in end-of-life mattresses. The partnership is looking to commercialise polyurethane (PU) chemical recycling technology.

An estimated 40 million mattresses are discarded in Europe every year of which only 17% is recycled with 50% ending up in landfill and 33% being incinerated. Evonik has developed a hydrolysis process to recover the polyols contained in PU foams, thus boosting recycling rates.

The technology is a type of depolymerisation which relies on water to break down the chemical bonds in PU into the original polyol raw material. The innovative process yields recyclates with the same quality as polyols made from mineral oil.

Evonik is testing its method at a pilot plant in Hanau, Germany. As a next step, the technology will be tested in a larger demonstration plant. Remondis will provide a steady supply of sorted PU flexible foams to allow Evonik to expand its recycling volume.

Previously, UK-based PU foam player Vita Group has used the recycled material in several of its flexible foam applications.

‘By working together with Remondis, we can evolve from the current linear value chains to functioning circular loops,’ says Patrick Glöckner, head of Evonik’s global circular economy programme. ‘True circularity only works in networks, that’s why we are actively expanding our collaborations.’

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