Life-cycle analysis crucial for PU foam: Vita Group

  • : Petrochemicals
  • 24/04/24

Life cycle analysis data is crucial in considering sustainability, UK-based polyurethane foam producer Vita Group chief technical officer Mike Murray told the Utech Europe conference in Maastricht today.

"Life cycle analysis is the only normalised and scientific method to validate how sustainable your product is," he said. "If you don't have verified data, you are guessing."

"Life cycle analysis reflects all of the environmental and material impacts through your supply chain," he said, including raw materials, manufacturing, waste products, transport and through to recycling or disposal at the end of the life cycle.

"It is possible to make PU flexible foam more sustainable," Murray said, but only by working with a wide network of supply chain partners, customers and legislators. "We can no longer achieve emissions reductions on our own… we have to achieve those emissions targets by working together," he said.

"As an industry we need to demonstrate that commitment to [the circular economy]. We have a choice between leading the advanced composites market in the circular economy, or wait for legislation to drive the change," he said. "We can't wait for the legislation."

Flexible polyurethane foam industry association Europur is working on a life cycle analysis model for the industry "so where we generate and share data, we are doing so on the same basis," Murray said today.

Options for more sustainability for PU foam include mechanical recycling, the use of bio-based polyols, and chemical recycling. But for bio-based polyols, "When we look at those we should be looking at the life cycle analysis," Murray said.

Vita's analysis indicates that its flexible PU foam has a lower carbon impact across its life cycle than competing products "but that is not how people talk about PU foam," Murray said. Verified data from those competing sectors is "still lagging", he said.

Going forward, the PU foam industry must lead the legislation discussion and "take a science-based approach to really show our commitment to the journey we are on," he said.

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