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Polyurethane chemistry can be essential to the continuous progress made in environmental stewardship and efficient use of our natural resources. 

It all starts with the chemistry of the two primary materials used to make polyurethane products—methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) and toluene diisocyanate (TDI). A major reaction of MDI and TDI in the environment is formation of solid inert polyureas from reaction with water.

The links below present summaries of existing information on the release and behavior of MDI and TDI in the environment,* which found that they have not shown any adverse impact on municipal waste handling processes, landfills or incineration.

MDI

Approximately 5 million metric tons of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) are manufactured and used worldwide each year in the production of polyurethanes. This material is well controlled, and only small amounts — from milligrams to a few grams per ton MDI used — are released into the environment. A major reaction of MDI in the environment is the formation of solid inert polyureas from reaction with water. In use, MDI is reacted with polyols to form many different polyurethane products. Polyurethanes are shown to be stable in the environment and on disposal, and have no adverse impact on municipal waste handling processes, landfills or incineration.

TDI

Approximately 2 million metric tons of toluene diisocyanate (TDI) are manufactured and used worldwide each year in the production of polyurethanes. This material is well controlled, and only small amounts — a few grams per ton TDI used — are released into the environment. A major reaction of TDI in the environment is the formation of solid inert polyureas from reaction with water. In use, TDI is reacted with polyols to form many different polyurethane products. Polyurethanes are shown to be stable in the environment and on disposal, and have no adverse impact on municipal waste handling processes, landfills or incineration.

Another key contributor to protecting the environment is in the handling of these materials.  CPI member companies take great care in material handling—whether at their own sites or working with customers. This helps prevent unwanted emissions and is part of ACC member companies' commitment to Responsible Care® practices.

Products made from polyurethanes support important environmental goals. For example, rigid and spray polyurethane foams used for thermal insulation can significantly enhance the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings. In addition to saving energy in the heating and cooling of buildings, polyurethanes can help make structures more durable, lessening the burden of using raw material resources to maintain or upgrade them. Polyurethanes also are used as wood binders to produce highly functional, structurally strong boards from scrap wood that otherwise could have been disposed.

At the end of their service life, polyurethanes can be sent for reuse (e.g., rebonding), chemical recycling** or can be incinerated for energy recovery based on national, regional and local regulations. Today, there are more options than ever for reusing polyurethanes.

*The reports contained herein are protected by copyright held by Gilbert International Ltd. and the use of these reports by CPI is with the express permission of Gilbert International Ltd., which CPI hereby acknowledges. The information, analysis, methods and recommendations herein are presented in good faith, are believed to be accurate and reliable, but may be incomplete and/or not applicable to all conditions or situations. No representation, guarantee or warranty is made as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of 'MDI and the Environment' and 'TDI and the Environment' or that the application or use of any of the information herein will avoid, reduce or ameliorate hazards, accidents, losses, damages, or injury of any kind to persons or property.

**Recycling does not exist in all areas. Check to see if there is a polyurethanes recycling facility in your community.

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