Polyurethane Recycling Technology
What’s the final destination of abandoned refrigerators?
The refrigerators are dismantled into their major spare parts in this place.
Various plastic and copper parts, as well as insulation foams, are salvaged from the fridge.
The rigid-foam insulation is made of polyurethane which is widely known as a common environmental pollutant.
A total of 20,000 tons of polyurethane have been dumped in South Korea every year.
The scrap polyurethane is burnt away in a subsequent process, creating toxic gases.
A local research team led by the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) has developed what it claims is the world’s first such technology to recycle the scrap polyurethane into a construction material.
First, the polyurethane foams collected from waste refrigerators are ground into fine powder.
Melting the polyurethane powder results in the liquid polyol which is a key ingredient used in polyurethane formulations.
If the reclaimed polyol is mixed with special substances, a new building insulation material is created.
[Jo Bong-Gyu, senior researcher, KIGAM]
“We plan to further expand our research to develop technologies for recycling other polyurethane foam materials used in furniture, bed mattresses and car seats.”
The cost required for the recycling process is only two-thirds of that for the production of polyurethane insulation materials with the conventional technology.
The KIGAM expects the new technology will attract multiple interests from abroad.