Today, automobiles exemplify how plastics can provide significant benefits to designers, manufacturers, and end-users. At the same time, vehicles today embody the environmental questions confronting the automotive manufacturer and the material supplier. Can our vehicles be recycled or recovered at the end of their service lives, and how can these products be effectively and efficiently reclaimed?
The PolyUrethanes Recycle & Recovery Council (PURRC) was founded in September 1990, a unit of the Polyurethane Division of the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. to help answer these questions. PURRC's mission is to identify commercially viable technologies for recycling and/or recovering polyurethanes to promote feasible recovery technologies and to communicate that polyurethane products are recyclable and recoverable.
This paper reviews the steps that the polyurethane industry is taking to provide the automotive industry with answers to the recycle/recovery issue.
One of PURRC's initial foci has been recovering polyurethane foam from automotive seating.
PURRC conducted a pilot dismantling project to examine the economics and infrastructure requirements for removing flexible foam from post consumer car seats at the dismantler level. The recovered foam was provided to a manufacturer who was able to incorporate up to 100% of the recovered foam into commercial carpet underlay.
To investigate new end uses, recovered foam was also cryrogencally ground and used in a pilot scale trial, where up to approximately 20% of the foam was added to the production of slabstock, currently used in automotive seating and furniture.
Other studies and results covered include:
An evaluation of current available technologies to separate polyurethane flexible foam from automotive shredder residue.
A combustion trial to study the recovery of energy from polyurethane flexible foam in a commercial municipal solid waste facility.
Evaluation of methods to recycle polyurethane foam from automotive instrument panels.