Zürich – Freitag, a Swiss fashion company that makes bags and accessories from recycled truck tarpaulins, is working with Covestro and other industry partners to develop a TPU-coated truck tarpaulin that can be endlessly reprocessed.
Freitag required a material that was fully recyclable – meaning that it can not only be recycled but also used again and again in new products. When used as truck tarpaulins, the material must be water- and dirt-repellent to withstand the rain, dirt and snow that European transit routes will throw at it.
When it comes to the end of its working life as a tarpaulin, the material can then be used in Freitag’s durable bags. And when those bags reach the end of their usefulness, the material can be chemically recycled to create the raw materials for new products.
Working with German tarpaulin manufacturer Heytex, Covestro has developed a TPU which is applied as a coating to a polyester fabric substrate. While TPU has been mechanically recycled for decades, for the Freitag project, the cycle is closed without downcycling, thanks to the final step of chemical recycling.
The TPU grade used in the tarpaulin, Covestro’s Desmopan 6783 DPS045, was given a cradle-to-cradle analysis by the German circular economy analysts EPEA. This showed that the material was suitable even for demanding processes such as calendering. The grade has also received the required safety certifications.
The partners are now investigating ways to separate the materials of the fabric and the coating, which is not currently possible. To overcome this, they are working on a parallel project to develop a completely new tarpaulin structure.