From mattress to insulation material: Recticel puts circular economy into practice


Catalisti innovation project results in launch of unique pilot line at Recticel.

Brussels, 28 March 2018 - Giving the foam filling from old, used mattresses a second life, for example as insulation material. That, in time, is the set-up of a unique pilot line launched today at Recticel in Wetteren by Flemish minister Philippe Muyters. The pioneering recycling technology was developed in recent years during a cross-sector innovation project by Catalisti, the spearhead cluster for sustainable chemistry and plastics. The sector is thus putting the circular economy into practice. 

At Recticel, Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister of Work, Economy, Innovation and Sport, was today allowed to inaugurate both the new labs of the Sustainable Innovation Department and to launch a pilot line for recycling polyurethane (PU) flexible foam from mattresses. In the Sustainable Innovation Department, 100 Recticel R&D employees will now work together in an ultra-modern and sustainable building. There, in various labs, they develop new materials and processes for the various divisions in the Recticel group.

The pilot line for the recycling of flexible foam should eventually enable the reuse of raw materials from old mattresses. The technology was developed in recent years within the ALFIBOND project of spearhead cluster Catalisti, together with Recticel, carpet manufacturer Balta, machine builder Matthys Group, VITO (Flemish Institution for Technological Research) and Centexbel, the research centre for the textile industry.

Currently, Recticel already processes PU foam production waste into acoustic insulation material. For example, Simfofit, a material for sound insulation in homes, is already in DIY shops today. With the launch of the pilot line, Recticel now wants to explore other recycling applications. In this way, the company anticipates the take-back obligation for mattresses that may be introduced from 2021. Although a number of regulatory and technological hurdles still need to be overcome before that.

Philippe Muyters, Flemish Minister of Work, Economy, Innovation and Sport. "Recticel proves the added value of thinking differently about "waste" and dealing differently with raw materials and materials. It's great to see that the company is proactively thinking about the future take-back obligation for mattresses, and resolutely committing to the Flemish raw material par excellence: our brains. Recticel is really making a difference thanks to innovation and its focus on circular economy. But the added value of Catalisti cannot be denied either: the collaboration between research and industry made the technology of the pilot line possible. That is exactly what we created the spearhead clusters for."

Frank Beckx, managing director essenscia vlaanderen: "With the launch of this unique pilot line, Recticel is clearly drawing the map of the circular economy. It is a great example of how Catalisti converts knowledge into economic added value. At Recticel, you also see chemistry in its most concrete form: insulation, mattresses, lightweight plastics. These are materials that provide extra comfort, but also often save energy and reduce CO2 emissions during their use phase."

Jan Van Havenbergh, Managing Director Catalisti: "This investment by Recticel shows that Catalisti's approach works. The transition to a circular economy is a major societal challenge. As a spearhead cluster, we play a crucial role in this by stimulating open innovation in which small and large companies from various sectors work together with knowledge institutions. With results, as quite a few partner companies have recently realised or announced investments in pilot lines, labs and R&D centres."

Also watch the video report on the new pilot line at Recticel: