Airbags have protected millions of drivers and passengers, and saved tens of thousands of human lives – quite impressive for a small piece of textile!
But guess how many end-of-life airbags are dumped around the world every year? About 100,000 tons! “Imagine if we could give used airbags a second life…” thought researchers at Solvay’s labs in Lyon, France. Believing that they deserve better than ending up as mere garbage at a landfill, they began to explore technology to recycle them.
Although the process of recycling silicone-coated airbag fabrics into high performance plastics was quite the technological feat for the research teams, they ultimately conceived a revolutionary technology - combining fine shredding and a chemical activation phase, associated with a separation technique based on density.
The Life Cycle Assessment* of the recycled product demonstrated a 26% reduction in carbon footprint, 48% savings in non-renewable resources and a 69% decrease in water consumption when compared to the standard process using fossil raw materials.
The recycled high performance engineering plastics obtained from this process will be used in the automotive, construction, household appliance and leisure industries – with a well-known automotive brand having already declared its interest.
Supported by Européan Commission's Life+ program, the technology labeled Move 4earth® is currently in the industrialization phase at Solvay's site in Gorzow, Poland.
Solvay’s revolutionary technology Move 4earth® for recycling technical textile waste was awarded the 2016 Pierre Potier Prize medal in the “Process” category.
*Comparative LCA Solvay study (Move 4earth® pilot process versus the standard Solvay process) regarding the manufacture of Technyl® Polyamide6.6 with 35% fiberglass.