Polyurethanes play a crucial role in preserving the natural resources of the earth through many different routes such as by allowing recycling of waste resources, preserving and enhancing the durability of materials or preserving food quality or biodiversity.
For example, Polyurethane adhesives enable the use of end-of-use vehicle tyrestires in children's playgrounds, sports tracks or surfaces for sports stadiums after they collected and shredded. Polyurethane coatings can protect substrates against corrosion and weather influence, by that significantly increasing their durability and saving resources. . The applications range from concrete constructions such as bridges and motorway structures to steel railway carriages and wooden furniture.
Polyurethane elastomers are used in a very wide range of applications. Most of these are in the field of engineering where their properties of durability, abrasion resistance and chemical and oil resistance are needed. The applications include rollers and belts for carrying minerals in quarrying operations, wheels for roller-blades and hospital trolleys, the rollers for printing processes and hoses and other components in automotive, under-the bonnet applications where their optimal durability reduces the need for upgrading or maintenance, thereby saving additional virgin resources.
Polyurethanes Recycling & Recovery Options
Polyurethanes are petrochemical-based polymers and it is important that we also ensure recovery wherever possible so that precious raw materials do not go to waste. Depending on the type of polyurethane, there are a range of different ways for recycling such as grinding and reuse and particle bonding. When Polyurethane is not suitable for recycling, then energy recovery is the next preferred option. Ton for ton, polyurethane contains the same amount of energy as coal which makes it a very efficient feed stock for municipal incinerators who use the energy gained to heat public buildings.
The continued development of recycling technologies, investment in infrastructure to support them and the establishment of viable markets as well as participation by industry, government and consumers will ultimately determine how maximum economic and environmental value can be derived from post-consumer waste.