Huntsman Polyurethanes' product stewardship programs embrace the whole life cycle of a product.
Naturally, this covers the issues encountered at the end of the product's life. This is relevant because, in an increasingly populated planet with ever-growing consumption, the amount of discarded products and articles is mounting. In addition, there is a potential wastage of valuable raw materials.
Legislators in many parts of the world are developing controls on how waste is treated. These include the reduction and elimination of landfills and the promotion of cleaner methods of incineration.
The first product area to receive attention has been packaging. This impacts the polyurethane industry, but developing measures on automobiles and appliances - with extension to building products and furniture - will have a major impact on the polyurethane-using industry.
Polyurethane displays many features which are invaluable in this context. It is very durable so that it, and products made from it, have a long life and so early obsolescence and waste are avoided. In addition, thanks to their sealing, waterproofing, abrasion and chemical resistance qualities, polyurethane coatings play a major role in extending other materials durability and lifetime.
Polyurethane products such as binders also play an increasingly important role in converting other waste products into useful articles. Examples are playground surfaces from rubber crumb, and building and furniture products from waste trees.
Research by the polyurethane industry has demonstrated that at the end of their useful life, polyurethanes' intrinsic energy can be recovered in state-of-the art installations or the material can be physically or chemically recycled.
The choice between the various technologies depends on several technical factors such as volume, qualities and consistency of waste streams, market capacity for recyclates and collection logistics. Local and regional conditions will be key in defining the most environmentally sensible and technically and economically feasible balance between the various waste management technologies.
Useful reports and fact sheets can be found at:
ISOPA, European Isocyanate Producers Association
PURCC, US Polyurethanes Recycle and Recovery Council
Return to the recycle, re-use and disposal life cycle stage