Millions of tonnes less CO2 emissions by recycling plastic insulation materials

CWI is part of a large European consortium that has received 15.7 million euro for demonstrating that the waste stream of high-performance plastics, which are heavily used as insulation material in the construction industry, can be recycled. This so-called CIRCULAR FOAM project is part of the European Green Deal aimed to make the EU-countries climate neutral in 2050.

Publication date: 29-06-2021

CWI is part of a large European consortium that has received 15.7 million euro for demonstrating that the waste stream of high-performance plastics, which are heavily used as insulation material in the construction industry, can be recycled. This so-called CIRCULAR FOAM project is part of the European Green Deal aimed to make the EU-countries climate neutral in 2050.

Until now high-performance plastics (rigid polyurethane) used in construction industry and in refrigerators are not adequately recycled. That leads to unnecessary waste and a lot of unnecessary CO2-emission. Recent research has shown that in the construction industry less than 5% of isolation materials (including high-performance plastics) is recycled.

In the CIRCULAR FOAM project 22 European partners from industry, academia and knowledge institutions aim to demonstrate that the waste stream of high-performance plastics can be recycled. Prototype recycling infrastructure will be built in three regions: North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, Silesia in Poland and the Greater Amsterdam region. The prototypes will demonstrate that the waste streams can be fully used to produce new high-performance plastics. After implementation, that should lead in 2040 to 586,000 tons less waste, 18.6 million tons less CO2-emissions and 118 million euro less cost for the incineration for the producers of the plastics.

In May 2021 the CIRCULAR FOAM project received the highest possible evaluation score within the European Horizon 2020-program and a total amount of 15.7 million euro funding for a four year period. CWI is a partner in the project and received € 220,000 for developing quantitative models to optimise the logistics of the circular waste stream.

Rob van der Mei, manager Research & Strategy at CWI is responsible for this scientific challenge. “We take part in the CIRCULAR FOAM project because of our knowledge in the fields of logistical planning, modelling and optimisation”, says Van der Mei. “In order to optimise the waste stream’s logistics all kind of questions need to be answered: How to optimally arrange a waste processing plant? What is the optimal placement of the production facilities? What is the best strategy for storage of the waste? What is the best strategy for transporting the waste? From the funding the CWI receives, we will develop a model to answer these questions.”

The prototype demonstrator that is going to be built in the Greater Amsterdam region will fully focus on making the stream of construction waste circular. Apart from CWI also the Hogeschool van Amsterdam (HvA) is involved. The Greater Amsterdam region (2.5 million inhabitants) aims to be a circular city in 2050 and working on the CIRCULAR FOAM project perfectly fits that goal.