The circular economy is pivotal in achieving climate neutrality, conserving natural resources, and protecting the environment. Covestro, a leading global supplier of polymers, is firmly committed to fully embracing the circular economy and helping to make it the global guiding principle. At its first appearance at the sustainability expo Greener Manufacturing Show on November 10-11, 2021, in Cologne, Germany, Covestro will be showcasing breakthrough recycling technologies and alternative raw materials.
“Our goal is to increasingly dispense with fossil resources in our production and replace them with renewable raw materials from recycled plastics, biomass, and CO2,” says Dr. Christian Haessler, head of the Global Circular Economy Program at Covestro. “In doing so, we are applying our core competencies in chemistry and bio-economy and developing innovative processes for the production of bio-based raw materials, the use of CO2 as a raw material in production, and the chemical recycling of plastics.”
Just like in nature: putting carbon into a cycle
Similar to plants, which take up carbon in the form of CO2 from the air and use it with the help of water and solar energy to grow and as a source of energy, Covestro also harnesses this principle of nature to extract carbon from CO2 in the air, from biomass and plastic waste and use it to manufacture its products. Some specific examples are partially bio-based types and, to an increasing extent, certified mass-balanced ranges. They are therefore contributing to the development of the circular economy.
Plastics with CO2
Covestro has already been using the climate gas CO2 to produce an important plastic component, so-called polyols, since 2016. In this cardyon®, brand products replace up to 20 percent of the fossil raw materials that would otherwise be used. Thanks to our dedicated research, we have since been able to significantly expand our portfolio for these polyols, from their first applications in mattress foam to automotive interiors and textile fibers to sports flooring.
At the heart of all these developments is the Triturn® technology. It enables the manufacture of cardyon® products and the reuse of CO2 – from waste to added value. Doing so reduces dependence on fossil raw materials and contributes to the fulfillment of consumer demands for more sustainable products.
Chemical recycling of mattress foam
Plastic waste is a valuable resource for new products. This also applies to the polyurethane foam recovered from used mattresses. Covestro has developed an innovative technology enabling the chemical recycling of such foams. Unlike other chemical recycling processes, this process makes it possible for both of the core raw materials originally used to be recovered and reused. Covestro is currently putting its efforts into developing innovative business models in cooperation with the entire value chain, with the ultimate aim of closing the loop for mattress foams.
Product passport for recycling
In many cases, it is impossible to recycle valuable materials effectively because the waste they contain is not collected or their composition and origin are unknown. Covestro is taking a novel approach here. The Niaga® tag is a unique product passport that identifies its origin and composition and explains how it can best be reused. Carpeting, mattresses, and furniture parts – all important components of bulky waste – are already identified in this way and can be fully recycled.
Digital tracking of plastics
Yet another project for tracking plastics for recycling employs a digital process: blockchain technology. To this end, Covestro is working with Circularise, a specialist in blockchain transparency, and other partners. The digital information about the origin, composition and ecological footprint of plastics along the value chain is used to generate a digital twin path that ultimately facilitates precise recycling. This has already made it possible to demonstrate the use of more sustainable materials in Porsche vehicles.