Circular economy supply chain set up for mattresses

4 August 2020

A foam mattress recycling supply chain has been set up to increase sustainabilty around mattresses.

Dow Polyurethanes has introduced polyurethane (PU) foam mattresses into the circular economy by collaborating with partner organisations to establish a recycling supply chain and reduce landfill waste. 

Dow Polyurethanes is working with companies, in what is called the Renuva Mattress Recycling Programme, to source recycled materials, manufacture equipment and mattresses, and develop a commercially-viable recycling method.

The programme will use chemical recycling to turn discarded PU mattress foam back into raw materials which can be used to make products such as building insulation and other mattresses.

Around 30m mattresses are thrown away each year in Europe, according to Dow Polyurethanes. The project aims to “divert up to 200,000 mattresses from landfills in France every year” and improve the carbon footprint of flexible foam production for mattresses by up to 30%.

Dow Polyurethanes has been partnered with German-based PU specialist H&S Anlagentechnik since 2017 to develop a PU commercial-scale recycling system. A production unit for creating recycled PU products will be built at Orrion Chemicals Orgaform in Semoy, France, and the first batch of recycled PU materials are set to be delivered at the start of 2021. Dow Polyurethanes also recently collaborated with French mattress firm Eco-mobilier to source polyurethane foam from end-of-life mattresses.

According to Dow Polyurethanes, recycling PU foams has never been done from end-of-life waste due to the complexity of the value chain and technology. “In most countries, there is an absence of adequate waste collection facilities that prevents any stable sourcing for chemical recycling. In addition, the downstream market for such polyols is limited,” the company added.

Lucie Porcelli, sustainability leader for Europe, Middle East, Africa, and India at Dow Polyurethanes, said: “For this reason, the Renuva Mattress Recycling Programme is being established first in France, because it [the country] has one of the most advanced regulations and initiatives for mattress recycling.

“It has already put in place extended producer responsibility schemes for furniture and mattresses to facilitate a separate collection of waste and support recovery and recycling of different materials.”

Marcel Moeller, global marketing and sustainability director at Dow Polyurethanes, said: “We consider the Renuva mattress recycling programme to just be the beginning. By demonstrating that polyurethanes can be chemically recycled when the right eco-system exists, we hope to stimulate the entire PU industry and create more demand for a process that could then be extended to other markets.”

The programme is also part of Dow’s 2025 Advancing a Circular Economy sustainability goal and meets circular economy goals set out in the European Union’s Green Deal.

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