In 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were introduced by the United Nations as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a way to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs are part of a global effort to address some of the world’s most pressing issues, including poverty, education, infrastructure, and climate.
Polyurethanes, one of today’s most versatile materials, contribute to the SDGs in multiple ways through innovative, life-enhancing products and technologies.
Sustainable Development Goal number 2 focuses on ending hunger around the world, and polyurethanes play an important role in reducing food waste. Over 800 million people suffer from hunger worldwide, making the need to yield more crops vital. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, however, one-third of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted: this is equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food.
Polyurethane products can help with reducing food waste in several ways. Polyurethane rigid foam, for example, is used in major appliances such as refrigerators and freezers to store and preserve food; this foam can keep food products at the right temperature for safe consumption. Rigid foam also plays an important role in cold chain shipping, a method to transport climate-controlled products like fruits, vegetables, meats, and other perishables. The cold chain process not only reduces waste, helps prevent foodborne illness, and improves access to quality foods for the most vulnerable populations, it also can reduce the world’s carbon footprint. The carbon footprint of food produced and not eaten is estimated to be 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
In addition, polyurethane rigid foam can be used to hold water and nutrients for plants and crops in greenhouses, helping to sustain the crop through its growth and further helping to address food shortages and waste challenges.
Global agriculture must increase its output to feed a growing population expected to exceed 9.8 billion people by 2050. Controlled release fertilizer (CRF) technology provides a shell on the fertilizer substrate that gradually releases nutrients into the soil through a semi-permeable polyurethane coating that prevents dissolution while allowing nutrients to flow outward through the polymer. Such technology helps avoid nutrient loss and improve crop yields.
Polyurethane products can help people around the world access a safe, adequate food supply to meet basic nutrition needs. This is not the only SDG that polyurethane products can help contribute to; throughout the year, we will highlight how polyurethane products help play a role in other SDGs.
To learn more about the polyurethane industry overall, visit the Center for Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) website to access resources detailing polyurethanes’ benefits and uses as well as its impact on the U.S. economy. Follow the CPI’s LinkedIn page for the latest news on the polyurethane industry and to connect with other polyurethane professionals.
In addition, learn more about how the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and its members’ sustainability priorities on ACC’s Chemistry & Sustainability webpage.
 The Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” The SDGs, set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and intended to be achieved by the year 2030, are part of UN Resolution 70/1, the 2030 Agenda.