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Case studies
April 1, 2022
EU Project

Territorial circular ecosystems for end-of-life foam (Circular Foam)

From October 2021 until September 2025, Circularise is participating in the project ‘Systemic expansion of territorial circular ecosystems for end-of-life foam’ (Circular Foam).

Circular Foam is a multi-stakeholder research project focused on improving the circularity of high performance plastics on the example of rigid polyurethane (PU) foams.

Together with 22 leading experts in the industry, Circularise is leading the development of a system for communicating the production process data. 

Current challenge

Rigid polyurethane foam (PU foam) is a lightweight insulation material. 

It has many benefits. The foam keeps the fridges cold and homes warm. Therefore, it saves energy and limits CO2 emissions. 

PU foam, however, is hard to recycle because of the lack of standardisation. 

Figures 1: Rigid polyurethane foam by Miljan Zivkovic

Objectives of the project

To contribute to addressing this issue, Circularise joined Circular Foam. Circular Foam is an interdisciplinary research project that aims to close the loop in the value chain of PU foam by developing a recycling process. 

The project involves the construction and appliance sectors, where the PU foam is used for building and refrigerators respectively.

Figure 2: Circular value chain of polyurethane.

Circular Foam is led by a polymer company Covestro. Some of the other partners are recycling agency Interzero, a producer of PU insulation boards Unilin, Ruhr Universität Bochum, TU Dortmund, as well as a consultancy agency IZNAB. Interzero works on the dismantling strategy. Unilin is testing alternative recycled materials. TU Dortmund and Ruhr Universitat Bochum provide research into the blueprint to assess the incorporation of the systemic solution. IZNAB is responsible for dissemination activities

See the full list of partners at the end of the webpage.

Under their supervision, all participants are developing and testing technical sustainability-related measures along the PU value chain. 

In particular, the project focuses on 5 key objectives:

  1. Establishment of stakeholder clusters (Hubs4Circluarity) responsible for initiating systemic circular transformations.
  2. Optimisation of waste collection, dismantling, and sorting.
  3. Development of novel chemical recycling technologies.
  4. Use of recycled PU foam waste as a renewable feedstock to produce high performance plastics.
  5. Improved material and product design for circularity that facilitates efficient dismantling and recyclability of products.

The project is tested in 3 regions: North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, Silesia in Poland, and the Greater Amsterdam region in the Netherlands. Based on these pilots, recommendations will be made for the implementation of circular PU foams in Europe. 

Circularise’s role within the project

Circularise is leading the work on the design for circularity. 

Using the power of digitalisation, Circularise is expanding the current traceability software to fit the needs of the construction and appliances sector, focusing on the data around the recyclability of PU foam. The enhanced software communicates information to PU foam dismantling and recycling facilities in a reliable and confidential way. Blockchain is used to increase trust, while zero-knowledge cryptography protects confidential data

Read more about Circularise’s traceability software for suppliers and manufacturers and brands and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

Thereby, Circularise ensures that, at the last stage of a value chain, recycling and dismantling facilities possess the necessary material and product characteristics for painless end-of-life treatment. 


Circular Foam is an ongoing project. It started in April 2022 and will end in March 2026.

Ambitions of the project

It is estimated that, from 2040 onwards, the project will save 

  • 1 million tonnes of waste,
  • 2.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, and
  • 150 million euros in incineration.


Project partners


BioBTX creates sustainable benzene, toluene, and xylenes (BTX) from non-food biomass and plastic waste. 


Covestro is one of the leading polymer companies in the world. It is focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative, sustainable solutions for products. 

DECHEMA (Society for Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology e.V.)

DECHEMA is a scientific society for chemical engineering and biotechnology. It includes more than 5,500 members, whose activities cover wide areas relevant to process industries. 


Electrolux is part of Electrolux Group - a global leader in household appliances. Electrolux focuses on food safety and quality. 

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is a federal technology university. Their Laboratory for Energy and Process Systems Engineering (EPSE) at ETHZ researches sustainability in energy and chemical process systems. 

Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park

The Euro-Centrum Science and Technology Park focuses on the development of energy-efficient technologies and respecting energy in buildings. 

Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML)

The Fraunhofer IML is a non-profit research organisation focused on material flow and logistics systems. 

Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH (FZJ)

FZJ pursues research addressing pressing issues. FSJ’s Institute of Energy and Climate Research has extensive experience in technology assessment and energy systems assessment. 

Institute Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI)

CWI is a research institute. One of its focus areas is developing quantitative models to optimise the performance and efficiency of logistic processes. 


Interzero is one of the market’s leading providers of environmental services for a closing product, material, or logistics loops. It develops models for avoiding wastage and ensuring efficient business practices. 

IZNAB Sp. z o.o. 

IZNAB Sp. z o.o. provides services in the fields of Engineering and Consultancy, regularly dealing with projects regarding energy-efficient buildings, smart & green transport, clean & green Energy or nano-biotechnology


Kingspan Group plc is a global leader in high-performance insulation and building envelope solutions. 

Metropolis GZM

The Metropolis assisted 41 municipalities in Poland and coordinated climate mitigation and adaptation actions in the region. 


REDWARE provides a range of recycling and waste treatment solutions (sorting plants for recyclables, turnkey waste treatment plants, and sensor-based sorting machines). 

Ruhr Universitat Bochum

Ruhr Universitat Bochum is a university with expertise in participatory research. It hosts such initiatives as the Centrum für Umweltmanagement, Ressourcen und Energie and the university-wide Research Department Closed Carbon Cycle Economy. 

RWTH Aachen University

RWTH Aachen University host the CAT Catalytic Center and the AVT Fluid Process Engineering which specialise in chemical research for sustainable processes and products and downstream processes and their integration in upstream chemical conversions. 

Technische Universitat Dortmund

TU Dortmund hosts the Process Dynamics and Operations Group and the Laboratory of Process Automation Systems. The two research institutions focus on various industrial activities from process control to applied optimisation. 

The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences 

The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences hosts The Centres of Expertise for Urban Technology which works on sustainable, action-oriented research and innovation partnerships in the field of urban challenges. 


Unilin is the second-largest producer of PU insulation boards in Europe. 

University of Groningen

The University of Groningen’s chemical engineering group is active in the development of novel catalytic chemistry and reactor concepts for catalytic processes with a strong emphasis on the conversion of biomass to energy, biofuels and biobased (performance) chemicals. 

Wroclaw University of Economics and Business

Wroclaw University of Economics and Business regularly participate in collaborative research projects, where it uses experience in statistics, logistics, supply chain management, waste management, change management, logistics processes’ optimization, and risk analysis. 

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