More than 3.5 million tonnes of polyurethane are used in Europe each year. This generates some 675 000 tonnes/year of polyurethane waste. The vast majority (68%) of this waste material goes to landfill. Reusing more of it could reduce overall energy use and environmental impacts, as well as leading to lower costs and improved production cycles. In the construction sector, polyurethane waste can replace gypsum used in insulation material, saving energy and water as well as reducing the amount of gypsum that needs to be quarried (currently some 1 million tonnes/year).
The LIFE REPOLYUSE project’s main objective was to increase the reuse of polyurethane waste that is currently managed as inert waste or is recovered through techniques that are not environmentally sustainable. Using a new technology, it would integrate polyurethane waste into new building materials, thus extending its life-cycle.
REPOLYUSE technology would allow a reduction in the use of natural resources and ensure that more energy is embedded in the material. In particular, the project aimed to:
- Reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with landfilling of polyurethane waste (i.e. visual impact, emissions of volatile particles, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by transport from origin to landfill);
- Reduce the environmental impacts associated with incineration techniques (lowering emissions of dioxins, fine particles and other air pollutants);
- Reduce the use of gypsum, with a subsequent reduction of CO2 emissions in the manufacturing process; and
- Improve energy efficiency when building with the new REPOLYUSE materials, resulting in lower CO2 emissions.
The project would contribute to achieving the objectives of the EU’s ‘Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe’ and Circular Economy Action Plan.
The LIFE REPOLYUSE project team developed and put on the market a new type of ceiling tile that incorporates polyurethane waste. The new product is CE marked and shows better technical characteristics than the equivalent conventional ceiling tiles. It is lighter (false ceilings based on this new product are about 28% lighter), has a lower thermal conductivity (meaning better insulation), is more flexible and fracture resistant, and has a lower surface hardness (an indicator of better sound absorption).
The new ceiling tiles were installed in three demonstration sites: the University of Burgos in Castilla y León (Spain); a new office building in the Álava Technology Park in Miñano in the Basque Country (Spain); and the University of Coventry (UK). Energy performance and comfort conditions were monitored for one year.
At the end of the demonstration period, the following environmental benefits were reported: reduction of gypsum consumption by 31%, reduction of water consumption by 25%, reduction of energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 14%, and reduction of manufacturing costs by 10%.
Furthermore, the monitoring at the three demonstration sites showed energy savings in the use phase as well, with improvements in energy performance and comfort conditions. An average of 0.23 kWh/m2 of saved energy was calculated, equivalent to a reduction of 8-10% in CO2 emissions during the use phase of the buildings.
The project product, with the brand name SKY-TECHOS ECOSOSTENIBLES, is already available on the market through YESIFORMA's catalogue of products. The project team defined a business plan setting out the product’s commercial perspectives, including pricing and distribution through direct and indirect channels. Currently, YESIFORMA is negotiating with several providers of polyurethane waste, to conclude ad hoc collaboration contracts that ensure a stable and diversified supply.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).