Polyurethane is a versatile material known for its strength, reliability and diverse applications in a wide range of industries. One thing it is not so often credited for is its life-saving properties.
We live on a planet with limited resources and we must only take from it what we need. People around the world are learning that we must act now to protect our environment and its resources for future generations. Polyurethane could be the unsung hero in the effort to preserve our environment and sustain our way of life on this planet.
On a more individual level, the durability and shock absorption properties of polyurethane make it ideal for producing impact protection equipment. Countless lives have been saved by protective insulation and PPE made using polyurethane and it possesses some unique qualities that really make it outstanding for these applications. These recyclable polymers are more important to humanity than you may be aware, so we invite you to come with us as we take a closer look at how polyurethane saves lives in the modern world.
Polyurethanes and sustainability
Polyurethanes play a role in preserving our planet’s natural resources. By adding a durable polythene coating to various products their lifetime is extended significantly. Polyurethane insulation is highly effective in helping us to reduce energy consumption. The polymers enable automotive manufacturers to design more lightweight vehicles that require less fuel to run, and they insulate fridges to help make food stay fresher for longer.
there has been a significant decline in polyurethane being dumped in landfill.
In addition to protecting resources and saving energy, there is now a greater emphasis on ensuring polyurethane is not simply discarded into landfill when it reaches the end of its lifecycle. They are often recyclable for mechanical, chemical and feedstock applications.
Certain forms of polyurethane can be ground and reused or can be recycled through particle bonding. For example, polyurethane foam is frequently repurposed as carpet underlay, like this example from Interfloor. Where recycling is not possible, energy recovery is another option. Polyurethane contains roughly the same amount of energy as coal, so it is an efficient feedstock for incinerators that generate energy to heat public buildings.
Landfill is avoided wherever possible and there has been a significant decline in polyurethane being dumped in landfill. Governments are waking up to the value of the polymer for recycling or energy recovery, so it is emerging as a leading sustainable material.
Polyurethane and protective equipment
People put themselves in danger for the sake of their jobs every single day. A geologist performing research deep inside a cave may face a number of life-threatening hazards from the harshness of the environment, and polyurethane can be there to protect him/her. If a rockfall occurs, a helmet made of polyurethane could be the difference between a fatal head injury and a glancing blow.
Thanks to the flexibility and insulating properties of polyurethane, a helmet like this is comfortable and provides significant impact protection. Safety helmets, safety goggles and a wide range of other personal protective equipment are made using different forms of polyurethane and its numerous properties make it ideal for keeping people safe.
Polyurethane foam is often used for impact protection in environments where there are protruding edges. Profile protectors are quick and easy to install and can protect people, vehicles and machinery against injuries/damage from impact. What’s more, the foam can be coloured in highly-visible yellow and black to warn people in the surrounding area of the hazard. Polyurethanes come in many forms and all have a range of unique properties that are suited to different purposes, safety being just one of many.
Polyurethane, savings lives in secret
Though you may not always be aware of it, polyurethanes are saving lives every single day. On a smaller scale, its application in personal protective equipment and shock absorption is saving many people from serious injury in a vast range of industries and leisure activities. In broader terms, the role of polyurethane in protecting our environment is gaining increased recognition all around the globe. By extending the lifespan of other materials, reducing the energy consumption needed to heat interiors and providing fuel, polyurethane is playing a key role in sustainability and protecting our environment.
All that, and the polyurethane industry is constantly innovating to improve sustainability and find more applications for this incredibly versatile resource.