Producing Plastic Foam from Waste CO2

Covestro and their partners have developed a chemical process enabling them to convert waste CO2 into a raw material for the manufacture of plastics and foams. The company has engineered a new catalyst capable of binding CO2 into polyols, which are the building blocks of polyurethane foam – a flexible plastic foam commonly used in mattresses and upholstery. The process uses less energy than the conventional petroleum-based production of polyurethane polyols. The CO2 used in the production process is a waste product from a neighboring plant directly connected to Covestro’s plant.

We have succeeded in turning a waste gas that is potentially harmful to the climate into a useful raw material.

Patrick ThomasCEO, Covestro AG

The company currently manufactures a commercial polyurethane foam with a CO2-based content of 20%, resulting in a 20% reduction in the petrochemicals used in the production process. Their Dormagen factory in Germany was the first to install the technology to make foams, but they intend to produce rubber and synthetic fibers using a similar process in the future too.

Why you should care

Plastic production has increased from 15 million metric tons in 1964 to 311 million metric tons in 2014, with production expected to double over the next 20 years. Covestro’s technology converts CO2 into useful raw material with transformative potential for large-scale and more sustainable manufacturing of plastics.

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