PRIMA Project - what is that exactly?
Annually, 1.2 million used ones become available for recycling. That's so many mattresses you could fill the Johan Cruijff Arena to the brim with them. Environmental centers do their best to collect the mattresses so that the materials from the mattresses can be reused; we call that “mechanical recycling”. Because it is a difficult product, more than 62% of mattresses end up being burned and only 38% are mechanically recycled. So another solution had to be found, specifically: chemical recycling. Through smart processes, this technique returns the product to the chemical process, allowing it to be used to make other products. That's what PRIMA - Pyrolysis Recycle Initiative for Mattresses - stands for. Pyrolysis is the technique of using very high temperatures and no oxygen to decompose substances. And those substances, gases and liquids which emerge from that are then used to produce new raw materials and products.
The goal is to increase the number of mattresses that are recycled. Ronald van den Bosch, Environment, Health & Safety Issue Manager at Dow, explains: “It turns out that there are limits to mechanical recycling for reusing the large stream of mattresses. By recycling in a chemical way, we can effectively reuse many more mattresses. And it doesn't stop at just recycling more mattresses; it's also better for the long term. Over the years, a mattress loses quality. If you reuse the substances from that through mechanical recycling, their quality is simply less. With pyrolysis, we return the substances to a state where they can serve a full purpose again, so the quality of the products that come out of it is like new.”
The challenges of chemical recycling
“Whereas with mechanical recycling you can reuse the various substances from a mattress relatively easily, with chemical recycling there is a considerable preliminary test phase. For example, there is a lot of research to be done and installations to be built and tested before they can actually be used. But on the other hand, once it's rigged, it's relatively easy to scale up and also allows for much more innovation.” So says Ronald.
The ultimate goal is to effectively recycle more than 75% of mattresses in the Netherlands by 2028. Ronald: “The studies in the current test phase have been completed. We are now working on the final report in response to those tests in Moerdijk and Delfzijl. Out of that will come recommendations for next steps.”