Towards a circularity in recycling of mattresses
After an average of ten years most mattresses today are thrown away, thus squandering resources and creating high quantities of waste. At the same time, valuable raw materials are needed to manufacture new soft foam mattresses - above all crude oil. A circular economy solution for mattresses can therefore both reduce waste and save fossil resources.
At BASF, we are continuously looking at ways to reuse and re-enter waste into product lifecycles and to foster circular economy solutions. With the circular economy concept, BASF aims to decouple economic growth from the use of finite resources and is accelerating the adoption of these principles into our day-to-day operations. BASF is developing a process to chemically recycle polyurethane soft foam from old mattresses to virgin-quality raw materials our partners to create new foams and mattresses thereof.
For this purpose, a cross-disciplinary research team with enthusiastic scientists, technicians and business experts at Lemfoerde, Schwarzheide and Ludwigshafen are is deeply involved. In the meantime, the precursors obtained from old mattresses can now be used to produce new mattress-size flexible polyurethane foam blocks. The new process is now being further improved and tested on a larger scales. By taking this step, BASF is breaking new ground and responding to the raised expectations of the foam and mattress industry as well as those of consumers. “As we continue to move forward towards a circular economy, BASF is contributing new technologies and extensive know-how to finding solutions for a sustainable future” comments Christopher Metz, Business Management Isocyanates Europe.
BASF’s target process breaks down the flexible polyurethane and delivers the initially used monomers. They can be used for the production of new foam with a reduced carbon footprint, complemented by avoided waste disposal. “We feel the strong mind-shift of consumers towards material circularity and their willingness to reward such innovative approaches to keep fossil resources longer in the loop without compromising on performance. With this project we support the shift to a more sustainable way of making business”, explains project manager Dr. Vikas Aggarwal.
Benefits of mattress recycling
- Mattresses are easy to collect and to sort out
- Post-consumer material which has so far been landfilled or incinerated is recovered
- The recycled materials can be used for the production of new mattresses
Production of new foam with a lowered carbon footprint due to less fossil resource consumption and avoided waste disposal
- Quality comparable to that of non-recycled raw materials
The circular economy (CE) concept aims to decouple economic growth from the use of finite resources. New recycling technologies will be required that can recover those materials which are not being recycled today. We look at solutions for customers along the value chain to re-enter waste back into product lifecycles. BASF is investing in cutting-edge technologies and already applying the circular economy concept in a number of ways to speed up the transition.
We are taking a fresh look at chemical recycling where fossil feedstock for chemical production can be replaced with recycled material broken down from plastic waste e.g. in a pyrolysis process or by wet-chemical recycling.