Comprehensive Technological Approach
Broadly speaking, there are two different ways of recycling – mechanical and chemical.
In these processes, waste materials are recycled into "new" secondary raw materials without changing the base structure of the material. For example, after sorting and processing, plastic is crushed into granulate. This can be melted down and made into new plastic. One of the ways Covestro uses mechanical recycling is to transform old water bottles into high-grade plastic for electronic components, such as laptops and printers.
In chemical recycling, plastics are reduced to their original molecular forms so that they can eventually be processed into entirely new plastic materials. There is significant demand for more development in this field – and this is where Covestro can offer up its core chemical expertise. For example, in the European-wide research project PUReSmart, which aims to significantly improve the recycling of polyurethane foam.
One type of chemical recycling is called enzymatic recycling. Here, used products and waste are broken down into their chemical constituents using enzymes, thus producing new recycled raw materials that can be reused. And finally, in pyrolysis, material is broken down into small molecules using very high temperatures. These molecules are often used again at the beginning of manufacturing processes.