Producing Plastic Foam from Waste CO2

Covestro uses waste CO2, produced by a nearby plant, as a chemical feedstock, converting the by-product into a raw material used to manufacture plastic foams.

Covestro and partners have developed a technology enabling them to convert waste CO2 into a raw material in the production of plastics and foams. The CO2 used in the production process is a side product from a neighboring plant directly connected to Covestro’s plant by pipes. The company has created a catalyst system, which efficiently makes CO2 molecules react with polymers, creating flexible plastic foam for mattresses and other products without using more energy than conventional petroleum-based plastic production.

The technology allows a CO2 content of roughly 20%, meaning that 20% of the petrochemicals in the products are replaced. A production line with a capacity of 5,000 metric tons per year will launch in summer 2016.

Relevance of solution

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.1 The technology converts CO2, the single biggest source of man-made global warming, into a useful raw material, which has a transformative potential for large-scale manufacturing of plastics.

Triple Bottom Line

Environmental

When using CO2 as chemical feedstock, Covestro avoids 2.7 kg of CO2 per kg of polyols produced.

Social

Partially replacing petroleum-based plastics with CO2 makes the mattress industry less dependent on petroleum, a finite resource.

Economic

CO2-based foams strengthen the green technology segment in an established flexible foam market that produces 5.8 million metric tons of foam a year2


Sources

  1. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. ”The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the Future of Plastics.” (2016)
  2. IAL Consultants. “Polyurethane Chemicals And Products In Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA), 2014.” (2014)