Kotaji explained that the legislation contains a proposal around rigid foam in construction waste, and 70% by weight will have to be recovered through recycling. Waste-to-energy is not an option.
"There will be a revision of the waste management framework, to which we as an industry need to pay attention and understand what it means,” she said. “There will also be work on legacy chemicals. There is a need to understand how they can be dealt with in the most efficient way, environmentally and economically."
Baumgartner added that there are also a number of non-regulatory drivers for change. “The first of these is social acceptance,” he said. “If people knew how many tonnes we put under the earth every year, I think that would be highly unacceptable to them.”
He added that there is also pressure for recycled content from public authorities, which buy about 20% of the goods and services in the EU. “The EU is developing criteria for green public procurement,” he said. “This means that public authorities will have to look at the environmental footprint of products when they buy them.”
EuroPUR working groups believe that waste-to-energy will remain part of the solution, Baumgartner said. “It is the preferred solution today.”
Waste-to-energy is a hygienic method of disposal. It can safely deal with the problem of legacy chemicals by removing them from the environment, and polyurethane contains a lot of trapped energy which assists in the efficient running of the power plants.
"Mechanical recycling will also become part of the solution," Baumgartner said. "Legacy chemicals are a hurdle to overcome, and foam reused in this way would be in competition with foam recovered in-process.”
"CO2 emissions to produce flexible foam have fallen by 24% over the last decade”
The industry does not believe recycled polyurethane foam can be used to make consumer products, Baumgartner said. "It can be used for non-consumer applications such as vibration damping, but certainly not in pillows and mattresses."
”There will be money available through the extended producer responsibility schemes consumers will pay an eco-contribution, or tax, when they buy furniture or a mattress," he added. “Some of that money will be made available to pay for, or subsidise, end-of-life solutions.”
Several papers at SusPolyurethane 2016 examined the different options for bio-produced or bio-containing raw materials. Angela Austin of Labyrinth Consultants outlined some of the options. “Lignin is a good potential starting material for many polyurethane products,” she said. This industrial waste product can be used to make alcohols and many other raw materials that could be used to produce MDI and TDI.
Using bio-succinic acid and other additives, it is possible to make 100% renewable polyols, and Asia is a big market for these products where they are used in using synthetic leathers, she added. However, the production of adipic gases generates nitrous oxides, which are a significant greenhouse gases.
Polyether polyols can be partially or completely replaced by bio-based polyols or carbon dioxide-based polyols, Austin said. She listed a number of agricultural materials, ranging from recycled cooking oil to oil cashew nut shells, which are being used as conventional polyol replacements. Fish oils have been used to make polyols, and the rigid foam made using these has been used in trawlers, where a fishy-smell is not a problem.
Tallow and other animal fats are unlikely to represent a long-term material alternative, because products made from it may be unacceptable to vegetarians and certain religions.
"It's not necessarily fair to compare bio-based products with oil based products, they are unique chemicals," Austin added.
"There have been questions about the intensive cultivation palm oil, and the same questions could be raised with soya. Is it really sustainable? Is it good to use a food product?”
In the US, soya farming has been made more sustainable, she said. This is partly because it is often grown on family-run farms that are passed on from generation to generation, and it is in their interest to keep the soil in good condition and maintain the water table. Newer strains of soya have a higher yield of beans, reducing the amount of land required. “The polyurethane industry uses the by-product from the animal and human feed industries” she said
About 160 MT/year of vegetable oil is produced globally and a further 100 kT/year animal fat, Austin said. “If humans were to stick to our 40 g/day dietary fat, there would be natural fats left over to make polyols,” she said.
Hunger is a real issue, but it's not going to be impacted using these vegetable oils as an industrial chemical."
Only 7% of the soyabean oil produced in the US is used in industrial applications, Austin claimed. As a result of the crushing process to make soyabean protein, about 250,000 tons of soyabean oil is available in the US to be used as food or as an industrial chemical. "You shouldn't worry about using vegetable oils as an industrial chemical,” she concluded.