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One Person’s Trash is Another’s Insulation

Categories: transformation

Can trash provide a solution for cutting air emissions? Yes, if it’s used to make energy-efficient insulation.

Huntsman makes insulation from recycled plastic waste to improve energy use in buildings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Through a proprietary process, the company recycles the equivalent of over 1 billion 500 ml plastic bottles in TEROL® polyols every year. With a recycled content of up to 60%, these polyols become an essential part of MDI-based polyurethane insulation products, the most effective insulation products in the market. Huntsman uses TEROL® polyols in other insulation applications, including polyisocyanurate (PIR) boardstock systems and pour-in-place insulation for refrigerators and freezers, which prolong the shelf life of perishable foods.

The use of recycled bottles in TEROL® polyols means plastic waste that may end up in a landfill or the ocean is given new purpose that saves energy and reduces emissions.

Due to the circularity of the process—where “take, make, dispose” is replaced with “make, use, return”—demand for insulation products made of recycled materials is growing at a rapid pace. Huntsman Polyurethanes is expanding to meet the need. In 2020, the company added a new plant in Taiwan to increase our TEROL® polyols production. Huntsman also has announced additional expansion plans for TEROL® polyols production in Europe.

The investment makes good business sense: not only does it offer a sustainable solution to reducing waste, the product is made from recycled plastics not subject to price fluctuations.

Huntsman is also expanding the use of TEROL® polyols in other applications, including composites for automotive applications and in-car seating.

As part of a strategy to grow its downstream differentiated business portfolio, Huntsman announced the formation of Huntsman Building Solutions in May 2020. The move follows the company’s acquisition of leading North American spray polyurethane foam (SPF) company Icynene-Lapolla in February 2020. Icynene-Lapolla has been integrated with Demilec, also a market leader in SPF applications which Huntsman acquired in 2018. Together, the businesses are now one of the world’s leading SPF providers and the fifth largest insulation manufacturer. The business provides customers with energy-saving open-cell and closed-cell SPF products for both residential and commercial properties.

The market potential, and resulting energy savings and emissions reduction, is promising. Approximately 115 million homes were occupied in the United States at the end of 2020. If each home was insulated with spray foam, the potential aggregate energy savings could be as high as 648.37 billion kWh per year, which is a reduction of 178.94 billion kg of CO2 emissions per year.

That means using spray foam in place of other products could reduce total U.S. GHG emissions by 3.5% annually and could reduce emissions related to home heating and cooling by 41%, according to the American Chemistry Council. That’s the equivalent of removing 38.9 million cars from the road, per year.

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