LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany—With around 30 million mattresses being discarded in the European Union alone each year, of which most end up in landfill or being incinerated, the search for a more sustainable end-of-life solution has intensified. Now, BASF has developed a chemical recycling process that could offer a more circular approach to the disposal of used mattresses.
The process breaks down flexible polyurethane foam and produces polyols, which, if all goes according to plan, will be able to be used in the production of new mattresses.
"The target is to recover the raw materials with a quality comparable to that of non-recycled/virgin raw materials," said Shankara Keelapandal, business management Isocyanates Europe.
The foam produced using polyols from post-consumer waste mattresses has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than conventionally produced foam, as fewer fossil resources are used. The first pilot tests at the BASF Schwarzheide site in Brandenburg, Germany.
The initial volumes of the recycled material will be supplied to project partners later this year, with whom joint pilot projects will be carried out.
"The project is technically complex, but the potential to reduce waste volumes and save resources makes it all worth it," said Keelapandal.
The process represents another step forward in the company's shift toward a circular economy—a transition that involves decoupling economic growth from the use of finite resources, BASF said.
"This is why we develop a solution to closing the loop for soft polyurethane foam with the chemical recycling of mattresses," Keelapandal said.