BASF plc supports Responsible Care, the worldwide initiative of the chemical industry, and thus commits itself to continual safety, health and environmental protection.
Within the BASF plc Group, Responsible Care for safety, health and environmental protection is an issue, which - for the sake of environmental sustainability - is considered as being a corporate value as important as economic criteria for boosting the company's success.
The whole process of development, production and storage of our products as well as their transport, application and finally also their disposal or recycling is evaluated and continually further developed with respect to the reduction of possible environmental impact.
This includes, in particular, the protection of resources as well as prevention of emissions and waste. BASF plc appropriately informs customers, partners and neighbours about environmental aspects of products and processes. Our environmental management system is geared to the guidelines of Responsible Care and meets the requirements of the international standard ISO 14001.
Methods for recycling polyurethanes are as diverse as their use. In order to find the right method, it is necessary to clarify their specific origin and use. The importance of this is shown, for instance, in insulating materials resulting from building demolition: for a long time to come we will have to reckon with insufficiently differentiated CFC-containing products in this area. Here incineration is suitable and, where available, energy-recovery. Scientific trials have shown that halogens from flame-retardant preparations or CFCs do not give rise to raised dioxin levels in modern domestic waste incineration plants. Over 99.999 percent of CFCs are destroyed in the process.
Alongside thermal re-utilisation of PU products, the recycling of production waste also plays an important role. The following processes are already being introduced on a practical scale:
Flock-bond: For recycling soft block foam: in Europe alone, over 20,000 tonnes of this recycled material are used annually. Soft foam scraps are cut down into flocks, covered in bonding agent, moulded and condensed. The binder is activated under heat. The soft foam waste processed into flat sheets can be used, among other things, as carpet underlays. Parts gained from the dismantling of old cars, such as seating upholstery, can also be recycled in this way.
Particle-bond: This process is similar to flock-bond, but ground-up polyurethane, e.g. hard foam, is used instead. The process developed for polyurethane can also be applied to many other materials such as textile fibres. The bonding agents used are generally based on Isocyanate. Under pressure, at temperatures of between 100 and 180°C, sheets can be made of 400 to 900 kg/m³.
Chemical recycling: Through splitting of the polyurethane chains these processes aim to produce new raw materials for plastics production.
Raw material processes: These processes are not polyurethane-specific. In particular "Post-consumer" materials recycling, such as light-shred fraction from old vehicle recycling, represents an integrated flow of organic materials. Robust processes, adapted to the high volume of recycling materials, are necessary to deal with this. The advantage of these processes lies in the marketability of valuable materials gained. It is generally not possible to state whether such processes are more ecologically beneficial than thermal re-utilisation.