Is Polyurethane Environmentally Friendly? Full-time JobFeb 17th, 2022 at 10:18 Marketing & Communication Baia Mare 37 views
People are more focused on products and technologies that are friendly to the environment than ever. With climate change at the front of many political debates, people want to be sure the products they’re using aren’t harmful to the environment and don’t pose any health risks when using.
One industry that takes a lot of flack from those concerned about the environment is the plastics industry. That is because of its reliance on fossil fuels and those mountains of plastic waste all over the planet.
But not all plastics are created equal, and in this piece, we look at polyurethane and answer the question: how environmentally friendly is it?
Polyurethane vs Plastic or
First, let’s get the answer out of the way and then look into the specifics. Yes, polyurethane, like PU sheet is inherently more eco-friendly than most other plastics. It also doesn’t contain any chemicals that interfere with endocrine and hormone systems, nor does it contribute to PH change in soil or water.
But what about all that plastic waste we see in photos almost everyday? Note that most of the plastics in the shocking photos are thermoplastics, which account for over 95% of the waste seen in the oceans.
In contrast: polyurethane plastics account for less than 2%.
Stated by urethane manufacturers, one reason for this low level of waste is that polyurethane lasts far longer than most thermoplastics. This means industries that rely on polyurethane products aren’t throwing those products out as often because of wear.
Another advantage is that there are a variety of directions one can take to recycle polyurethane parts back into prepolymer constituents from which they were made.
Also, scientists use microorganisms to break downcast urethane products, and once in the environment, casting polyurethane prepolymer aren’t toxic to the environment as they break down. These facts make polyurethane more environmentally friendly plastic.
The manufacturing process
Okay, so polyurethane itself is better for the environment, but what about the process of making this plastic? Isn’t it just as bad for climate change and the environment as other plastic manufacturing?
Many polyurethane manufacturers work hard to minimize the impact on the environment by optimizing the manufacturing process and becoming more energy efficient.
Also, today’s polyurethane manufacturers like Sabic continue to work closely with polymer-machine producers to make casting systems that reduce the amount of waste coming from the manufacturing process.
Note that advancements in 3D printing and simulations of how materials flow through molds mean that engineers can design molding systems that drastically reduce the amount of waste material produced.
Being able to reclaim parts and re-use existing metal components means that you can refurbish polyurethane cast parts, which is not as easy to do with other products. Some metal components can last virtually a lifetime as long as the urethane section is upgraded when needed.
So, for instance, a wheel hub may have a lifespan of over 30 years, which benefits the environment by not having to manufacture parts as often.