The Environmental responsibility of Polyurethanes
Polyurethanes are based on oil, a finite resource. However, the product qualities of polyurethanes are such that they help to conserve many resources, while at the same time safeguarding high and ever increasing standards of living.
In terms of the environment, polyurethanes actively help fight climate change in a variety of ways:
As effective insulators, they improve the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce the need for heating and cooling, thereby lowering carbon emissions.
In vehicles, not only do they ensure comfort and safety, but also enhanced fuel efficiency, because they are lighter than alternative materials.
The polyurethanes industry is constantly striving to improve the end-of-life phase of its products to achieve even greater sustainability. Existing projects demonstrate that recovery schemes reduce the volume of polyurethane waste going to landfill. Indeed, more than 250,000 tons of polyurethanes from European sources are recycled and recovered every year. Furthermore, use of polyurethane waste for power generation in municipal solid waste incineration decreases the need for fossil fuels.
Access interesting case studies on polyurethanes and their development.
Today, about 45% of fossil fuels are used to cool and heat the interiors of buildings and homes. Through the use of insulation materials, considerable energy savings can be made. The result is a substantial reduction in CO2, one of the main contributors to global warming.
Domestic refrigerators using polyurethane as an insulator achieved energy efficiency gains of 37% in the ten years leading up to 2002. Improving the eco-design of appliances by the use of polyurethanes thus allows us to live modern and comfortable lives in an energy-efficient manner. These energy savings translate into reduced greenhouse gas emissions and a significant contribution on our part towards reducing global warming. Moreover, better cooling preserves more food – another valuable and sometimes scarce resource – from premature deterioration.
Increasing numbers of vehicle manufacturers are utilising polyurethanes for lightweighting purposes. Ranging between 30 and 50kg/m3 density, polyurethane foams use a minimum of raw materials yet retain their strength and durability. The resulting weight loss yields substantial savings in fuel consumption and hence CO2 emissions without compromising quality.