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Polyurethanes: The Durable and Versatile Material Helping to Solve Society’s Most Important Sustainability Challenges

Did you know that polyurethane products and technologies play an important role in promoting sustainability and reducing waste?

The polyurethane industry is putting the power of polyurethanes to work by unlocking solutions to some of society’s biggest challenges. The versatility and durability of polyurethanes makes this material a vital contributor to helping achieve key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDG 2: No Hunger

How can polyurethanes possibly contribute to an SDG like “Zero Hunger?”

Currently, one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted. Polyurethanes play a key role in helping people around the globe access a safe and adequate food supply to meet basic nutritional needs.

Cold chain shipping — which relies upon rigid polyurethane foam insulation — is used to transport climate-controlled products like fruits and vegetables, meats and other perishables, to our most vulnerable populations. This process not only lessens waste, but it also prevents foodborne illness and improves access to quality foods. By helping to reduce waste, cold chain shipping decreases the world’s carbon footprint associated with food production and distribution.

Rigid polyurethane foam insulation is also an important component in major appliances such as refrigerators and freezers used to store food. From trucks to warehouses to home refrigeration, rigid polyurethane foam insulation keeps products at the right temperature from harvest or production to consumption.

SDG 3: Promoting Good Health and Well-Being

Did you know that polyurethanes also promote good health and well-being?

In addition to preventing food spoilage, rigid polyurethane foam insulation in major appliances is used to store pharmaceuticals and help extend their shelf life. This allows medical professionals access to life-saving medicines and ground breaking medical treatments to eradicate deadly diseases around the world and during global health crises.

But that’s not all polyurethanes do in helping advance good health and well-being. We’ve all heard it before — getting a good night’s sleep is important. Short sleep durations can lead to many negative health outcomes, such as increased mortality. Today, most mattresses and pillows contain flexible polyurethane foam, and some are even made entirely from it. Polyurethane mattresses decrease the likelihood of bed sores for people managing with prolonged illnesses, and the supportive properties of flexible polyurethane foam pillows may be beneficial in reducing neck pain.

SDGs 7, 9, 11: Promoting Affordable and Clean Energy; Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure; and Sustainable Cities and Communities

Polyurethane technologies help create a greener, more sustainable tomorrow by creating a less carbon-dependent society. How can a material used to insulate products and make mattresses comfortable also help promote sustainability across so many other sectors?

Polyurethane is a versatile technology and polyurethanes play an essential role in the products and technologies we use every day, and their unique qualities help make these products durable, long lasting and in some cases extremely energy efficient.

For example, polyurethanes are used throughout cars instead of heavier materials. In addition to the foam that makes car seats comfortable, this material is used for bumpers, the car body, spoilers, doors and windows. As a result, the end product is lighter without compromising safety, more fuel-efficient, quieter, and more corrosion resistant. This not only saves on fuel, but lighter cars with polyurethane components use fewer resources and experience a reduction in carbon emissions.

But that’s not all!  Polyurethane foam’s incredible insulation characteristics also help homes and structures be stronger and have a longer, more sustainable lifespan. Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) helps create energy-efficient buildings by insulating and filling in gaps, holes, and leaks that waste energy, thus saving you money on your monthly energy bill. SPF also helps prolong the life of buildings by preventing corroding elements like snow, water, and dirt from seeping in and damaging the structure.

As you can see, polyurethanes are some of the more unique materials on the market today. Their durability and versatility allow for the production of sustainable, long-lasting products that span across a variety of sectors. Polyurethanes are helping tackle important sustainability issues affecting our everyday lives as outlined in the UN SDGs.

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