Sorting specialist Redwave is part of the newly initiated PUReSmart project that aims to improve polyurethane recycling. The EU has invested EUR 6 million in the venture via its Horizon 2020 R&D programme.
Because polyurethane is a thermoset polymer, foams such as mattresses and upholstery are ‘extremely difficult’ to recycle, Redwave notes. Even today, most of them are landfilled or incinerated. The technology provider is eager to help boost mechanical recycling rates.
Enter the PUReSmart project, which is backed by nine recycling players from six European countries. Together, they will develop smart sorting technologies to separate used polyurethane materials in order to create new polyurethane products.
Redwave is providing automated sorting solutions in order to recover polyurethane foams. The sorting project will last four years during which all partners will be working towards the final goal of recovering 90% of the end-of-life polyurethane material.
‘We are testing different sensors to find the best solution to differentiate the polyurethane foams,’ says Katharina Ander, R&D specialist at Redwave. ‘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 polyurethane foams into different fractions.’
She explains 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,’ Ander states.
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