Remaking the bed: mattress recycling

In Europe, 30 million mattresses are thrown away each year. Stacked in a single pile, they would be 678 times taller than Mount Everest. This presents an obstacle to a circular economy – because synthetic foam mattresses are notoriously difficult to recycle.

RENUVATM – a programme with circular vision

Enter RENUVATM, a Dow initiative to transition linear economy polyurethane (PU) products to the circular economy. The programme takes discarded foam from old mattresses and turns it back into its raw material – polyol – through chemical recycling. This polyol can then be reused to make new polyurethane products, such as new mattresses or building insulation.

The principal objective of the RENUVATM programme is to bring the different actors within the mattress value chain into a new ecosystem, by forming partnerships between polyurethane foam producers, recycling companies, manufacturers and others.

Partners with chemistry

To ensure a regular input supply of end-of-life mattresses Dow has partnered with Eco-Mobilier, the French furniture and bedding non-profit eco-organism, who will work on the collection and dismantling steps of the RENUVATM project in France.

To develop the recycling know-how, Dow has partnered with German polyurethane specialist H&S Anlagentechnik to develop a commercially viable recycling method that turns polyurethanes back into polyols. The process developed breaks down old mattress foam for use in new foam recipes. As a result, the polyol with recycled content (RENUVA™ polyol) can replace up to 30% of virgin feedstock used in flexible foam production. In order to implement the mattress recycling process on an industrial scale, Dow has also brought in Orrion Chemicals Orgaform in Semoy, France, to operate the technology under the status of external manufacturer on behalf of Dow.

Finally, Dow will work to ensure that the recycled polyol is compliant with the market standards and to create a strong market for the polyols with recycled content in new foam materials. This is where The Vita Group, Europe’s leading provider of flexible polyurethane foam solutions, comes into play. They will incorporate RENUVA™ at their production site in Crancey, France, and work with their customers and mattress brands across Europe to promote the use of the foam with recycled content in the production of new mattresses, as well as other PU-based products.

By working closely with European partners across the polyols value chain, Dow’s RENUVATM programme aims to recycle up to 200,000 mattresses a year in France.

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Number of mattresses recycled per year

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