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PolyUrethane Recycling towards a Smart Circular Economy

Project description

Recycling long-lasting thermoset polyurethane foam

Thermoset polyurethane (PU) products constitute one of the most important plastic materials produced worldwide. These are foams that are flexible and rigid, long-lasting and durable, and used in many different applications. But recycling them is a challenge. In this context, the EU-funded PUReSmart project has brought together nine partners from six countries to search for new methods, technologies and approaches. The aim is to transform PU into a circular material. The project targets the recovery of over 90 % of end-of-life PU with the goal of converting it into valuable inputs for new and known products. The project consortium will develop smart sorting technologies to separate a diverse range of PU materials into dedicated feedstocks, which will be broken down into their basic components.


Thermosetting Polyurethanes (PU) provide a unique combination of durability, light weight, high strength and flexibility to high value consumer goods and other applications. PU thermosets have grown to a global market of 50 billion €, ultimately resulting in high volumes of waste mostly disposed via landfill or incineration as the SOA of the recycling technology is limited. PUReSmart will bridge the gap between the current PU linear economy to a circular model by designing smart polyurethane materials that can be reshaped into new products with undiminished quality. PUReSmart will provide solutions for the identified three scientific-technological urgent needs that require conceptual breakthroughs:
1) Smart DESIGN of covalent adaptable polyurethanes (CAPU) to bridge the gap between thermosets and thermoplastics, thanks to thermally reversible bonds; these CAPU are reprocessable, similarly to thermoplastics.
2) Smart SORTING, using the unique spectroscopic fingerprints of conventional PU and smart building blocks to create a validated and cost effective PU sorting platform with high specificity and sensitivity; this enables driving CAPUs to reprocessing and PU to chemolysis.
3) Smart CHEMOLYSIS with mass balanced and minimized input of virgin chemicals, maximal purity and efficient isolation of the obtained building blocks resulting in full re-utilization of all obtained fractions for PU or CAPUs;
PUReSmart will integrate CAPU chemistry with monomers obtained by next-generation chemolysis processes, using well-sorted feedstocks, aiming at scalable industrial products (TRL 5) with social and economic value assessed by a Life Cycle Analysis for ‘cyclic’ PU.
The project encompasses a concerted effort of partners along the value- and revalorization chain: PU producers, producers of the building blocks, technology providers for physical sorting, and research institutions focusing on design of new PU types and on innovative chemolysis methods for existing PU types.

Call for proposal


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Sub call



Net EU contribution
€ 20 587,99

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Halle-Vilvoorde
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 344 102,28

Participants (10)