Recycling & Recovery Options for PU Seating Material: A Joint Study of ISOPA /Euro-Moulders 2000-01-1514
A more environmentally sound ELV disposal is presently discussed with the European Union directorates, the council of ministers and the European parliament. National plans or already existing legislation are in place in several countries like Germany. PU seating material is one of the key targets by legislators and environmental authorities for dismantling.
The reason for dismantling seats is a potential recycling or recovery for the PU seating material as it is one of the large plastic parts and can be relatively easily dismantled. A general broad investigation on the ecological and economical impact of this PU material has not been done as for many other parts like the fuel tank, which are presently considered for dismantling.
EU legislation in preparation is calling for a reduction in landfill from ELV's from 25% by weight today, to 5% by 2015.
The position of the PU producing industry and the seat molders is presently to define what is the economic impact of dismantling seats to recover the PU cushions. A clear cost base calculation for the various routes to cope with the EU and national quota reducing landfill by 2015 to < 5 % of the vehicle is made for the ELV with regards to the subject of potential PU dismantling.
The two potential routes for PU seating could be either a mandatory dismantling with further use for recycling/recovery operations or a recovery with the rest of the plastics.
The lowest cost option for the disposal of an ELV in the future will be to use the traditional process of shredding. This operation could be followed by taking the automotive shredder residues (ASR) to a fuel substitution operation with or without any further ASR refining. Other favorable routes to deal with the ELV depend on regional circumstances with respect to existing infrastructure of collecting companies, shredders and potential users of today's or refined ASR. The demonstration of different routes to recycle/recover PU seating materials, the ELV in different geographical areas is part of ISOPA' s and Euro-Moulder's technical program.
The present quality of SR (shredder residue) does favor this option as fuel substitute, and efforts of the plastics industry are aimed at getting Municipal Solid Waste Combustion recognized as an official recovery route and have sufficient energy recovery capacities throughout Europe. The technical demonstration in large-scale facilities and the relatively lower cost of this route compared to other solutions are the reason. Municipal Solid Waste combustion (MSWC is today seen by most European environmental agencies as an indispensable part of integrated waste management because of the environmental performance of today 's state of the art equipment, but its status as a recovery option for ASR is still in discussion especially in Germany.
Refining of ASR to make a raw material or fuel will not be cost neutral. The price of fuel today is too low to warrant an upgrade to higher quality ASR without subsidy. This additional cost would increase the cost of ELV treatment compared to the previously mentioned route.
The dismantling of PU seating material requires a number of steps until the material is at the gate for a customer to use it as a fuel or raw material. Removal for use as fuel in cement kilns is not cost effective due to the low price of fuels today in the cement producing industry.
Viable chemical recycling routes for mixtures of PU materials from ELV's seats do not exist at present at sufficiently large scale.
There are ongoing efforts on commercial scale in the Netherlands to dismantle seats. These activities in NL are subsidized by the first owner of the car and the money collected is used for dismantling, collection and mechanical recycling into rebonded foams. In other countries like Germany (D) a discussion within the industry and a request for subsidies is ongoing. Any kind of dismantling operation will require a subsidy to compensate for the loss a dismantler or recycler will occur under today's economic situation.
Market size for rebonded foam is not large enough in Europe for the amount of dismantled PU foam, as a substitute for scrap PU trims. Other outlets for PU foam like potential regrind into powder and use as filler are being evaluated but are not yet commercial.