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UTECH Las Americas and Foam Expo North America: H&S presents solution for recycling of end-of-life mattresses

In Europe alone, up to 40 million old mattresses end up in landfills or incinerators every year and are thus removed from the material cycle. At this year’s UTECH Las Americas and Foam Expo North America, German plant manufacturer H&S Anlagentechnik GmbH is presenting a patented recycling technology for recovering valuable polyols from end-of-life mattresses.


If one placed end to end the mattresses discarded in Europe each year, they would form a ribbon that wraps around the world twice. The number of mattresses disposed in the United States of America per year amounts to another 20 million, thus contributing vastly to a severe global waste problem. In a situation where consumers are increasingly demanding eco-friendly products, H&S now offers a concept for solving the end-of-life mattresses problem sustainably.


Chemical recycling of discarded PU mattresses

H&S Anlagentechnik has been developing plants and process technologies for polyurethanes for more than 30 years. Based on this in-depth know-how, H&S has succeeded in recovering valuable recycled polyols from discarded PU mattresses. Different kinds of flexible PU foam from various mattress manufacturers are converted by acidolysis with carboxylic acids, using a process developed by H&S's own chemists. The recovered polyols can then be utilized for various polyurethane applications including the sustainable manufacturing of mattresses. Rüdiger Schaffrath, founder and Managing Director at H&S, elaborates: “With our chemical process for the generation of high-quality polyols from post-consumer mattresses, we offer a viable business model that will have a major impact on the environment.” The furniture industry can thus gain valuable secondary raw materials for the production of new PU foam and at the same time contribute to more sustainability.


H&S at UTECH Las Americas and Foam Expo North America

H&S will be presenting their innovative recycling concept at two major trade shows in the upcoming weeks: At UTECH Las Americas – the only event in Latin America dedicated exclusively to the polyurethane industry – in Mexico City, June 13–15, 2023 (Booth 315), as well as at the Foam Expo North America, in Novi, Michigan, June 20–22, 2023 (Booth 1712). The company from Sulingen, Germany, has recently been granted a patent for its PU recycling technology for the North American, Asian and European markets. Trade fair visitors are invited to the H&S booths for one-on-one talks about the patented technology and the possibility of partnering with H&S. Mila Skokova, Product & Sales Manager at H&S, has noticed how the focus on sustainable recycling solutions is paying off for all parties involved: “We are currently receiving a large number of enquiries, especially from flexible foam manufacturers. In times of raw material scarcity, recovered polyols become the perfect solution to reduce production costs and increase competitiveness.”


H&S success stories

In collaborating with H&S for mattress recycling, customers are choosing a reliable partner as well as a concept proven in various different settings: Together with well-known partners, H&S launched the RENUVA mattress recycling program in France in 2022, the world's first industrial plan for recycling used mattresses. With RENUVA, an ecosystem has been created for the first time that brings together all the players in mattress recycling. It is the result of close cooperation between H&S Anlagentechnik and key players from the entire mattress life cycle. “We have created a functioning ecosystem along the polyurethane value chain that has produced a solid business model”, enthuses Rüdiger Schaffrath. “In addition, by recovering raw materials, we have made a major contribution to solving the global problem of mattress recycling at end-of-life.”

Among other projects, H&S Anlagentechnik GmbH supplied an industrial-scale system to recover polyol from flexible polyurethane foam waste materials to a major Polish slabstock manufacturer as early as 2013. Besides the reactor as the core of the system, the H&S scope of delivery also included the entire storage and conveying facilities for the solid and liquid input materials and the ready-for-use flexible foam polyol.

With the new recycling process, H&Ss customers are now in a position to take all of the flexible foam residues that arise during preparation of foam blocks and return them to the production process. The recovered polyol can be used replacing the original polyol at a level of up to 20 per cent in the foam formulation without compromising the quality of the flexible foam product.


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