Recyclable foam turns furniture and horticulture into circular industries

As consumers, we depend on foam. It is used in large quantities in mattresses, chairs and sofas, but unfortunately it is often not sustainable. The Groningen scale-up Foamplant is focusing on the production of a circular variant, suitable for use in furniture and horticulture, among other things. “Our foam can be reused again and again, up to 10 times, for new applications,” says CEO Martin Tietema. 

A lot of products today are available in circular form. Take an office chair, for example. The hard plastic, steel and textiles are all reusable. The only exception to the rule is the foam that goes into the chair. The used foam often ends up in a landfill. In the worst case, you find it back in nature, where it lingers for years because the material is not biodegradable. Regular foam you can make as hot as you want, but you can never melt it down again. It doesn’t liquefy anymore, which makes it difficult to reprocess. "We use biopolymers where this is possible. You can melt the material, shred it and turn it into raw material from which new foam is made," says Martin. 

"Growfoam, our horticultural product, is the first product we launched. It is a nutrient layer developed for growing young plants from seed or cuttings. Horticulture is becoming more sophisticated and it is becoming more important to grow clean. Now peat substrate is often used to grow crops. Peat soil stores CO2 in large quantities. Given the climate problems, it is not unwise to leave the peat where it is. You also destroy peat bogs when you dig them up. Growfoam is sustainable and can be disposed of together with green waste. Customers use it mainly in vertical farms to grow herbs, salad crops, cucumbers, flowers and much more."

Growfoam is already available on the market. The company is currently working hard to scale up the production capacity of foam products for applications in furniture and mattresses. "We expect to have products in stores that incorporate our foam by 2023 and are also in talks with producers of mattresses and furniture. Our goal is for our foam to be processed into fully circular products. If it is processed in chairs that cannot be properly disassembled or are used in combination with non-circular products, then of course it doesn’t help as much."

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