PU Insulation Recycling (PURE): Study on the technical, economic and environmental feasibility of recycling construction, demolition and manufacturing waste.


Polyurethane foam has been widely adopted as a high-performance insulation material in construction for many years. Today, the volume of polyurethane foam from demolition sites is still relatively small, but the volume will grow significantly in the coming years. The insulation usually arrives at sorting centers through containers of mixed waste. In most cases, after sorting, it is incinerated with energy recovery. Thus, there is great potential in processing and recycling PU foam for higher-value purposes.

In its 2007 Implementation Plan on Construction and Demolition Waste, OVAM focused very explicitly on a number of waste streams, such as glass, but also plastics. The Flemish decree on materials and waste (art. 21§1) provides for the Flemish Government to take measures to stimulate prevention, reuse, recycling and other useful applications by granting extended producer responsibility to any natural or legal person who professionally develops, manufactures, treats, processes, sells or imports products. The European Commission is also moving towards a stricter policy on polyurethane foam waste treatment. The realization of the present study will enable the construction and waste sector in Flanders to respond proactively to the evolving policy.

The consortium wants to do away with the incineration of PU insulation and recycle it as much as possible. This requires setting up a new chain of collection, transport, possible pre-treatment and processing.

With this feasibility study, the consortium wants to clear up the following uncertainties, in preparation for a larger (R&D) follow-up project:

1. Based on technical feasibility, economic feasibility and environmental impact, which are available techniques that can function on a large scale for the recycling of PU insulation production, yard and demolition waste?

Many techniques are already known today for both mechanical and chemical recycling. The latter only exist on a laboratory scale. Some of them have already been explored by Recticel and UNILIN. However, it is unclear which techniques are best suited for large-scale application and what the technical and economic preconditions are for them. The logistics chain of collection, transport and possible pre-processing, which precedes the actual recycling of the waste, also has a major impact on the economic and ecological feasibility. This has never been examined before.

2. Based on economic feasibility and environmental impact, what does the logistics chain for the collection, transport, possible pre-processing and processing of the same waste look like?

The logistics chain and the recycling technology must be coordinated, with an eye on economic and ecological optimization. For example, the degree of contamination of the polyurethane foam will have an impact on the applicable recycling techniques, and due to the low volume mass of the insulation material, transport will weigh heavily on the economic and ecological feasibility.

Project details

Project type
Innovation Programme
Circularity and Resource Efficiency
Project status
Approved on
Project date
€201 490
€80 596