Climate change is one of the biggest challenge of our time, and all great challenges require great solutions. There is no one answer to achieving greenhouse gas neutrality and circularity. Indeed, no single organisation or individual can save the planet. The ability to hasten sustainable change comes in working together, and that’s why, at The Vita Group, we place such enormous value on partnerships.

To foster deep, permanent change within our industry, we need to closely collaborate with our suppliers to improve the recycling of existing resources and reduce the amount of virgin hydrocarbons we use in the creation of flexible PU mattress foam. We see our role as a leader of transformation and an enabler of the circular economy – a position that decades of successfully commercialised eco-efficiency in manufacturing and product design have afforded us.

But our partnerships extend much further than our supplier base. Achieving our sustainability goals whilst helping to catalyse wider transformation means partnering with our customers, industry regulators, and academia. We hope this multi-layered strategy will act as a blueprint for manufacturing companies globally.

Here’s what it looks like in practice:

Partnering with customers

The Vita Group’s approach is to generate internal and external circular economies – this means recycling/reusing all production waste, whether it comes from us, our suppliers our customers and now the final consumer. We have a unique opportunity to help customers reduce their environmental impact through low-carbon designs for foam mattresses utilising rebonded and alternative polyols and the repurposing of their mattress waste.

Every year we buy back approximately 8-12,000 tonnes of customer waste (trim) to help create rebonded products. By partnering with Dow Chemicals, we have developed a new type of mattress which utilises the original chemicals from end-of-life mattresses (repolyol materials). Customers rely on us to demonstrate sustainable values in action due to the long-standing association between used mattresses and environmentally damaging landfill waste. By cooperating with customers and suppliers, we are forming a solid base to move our industry into a sustainable product and boost consumer perceptions.

Partnering with suppliers

We recognise that it will take multiple innovations to help the industry achieve carbon neutrality. Vita has carved out a reputation as the commercial partner of choice for new technologies, focusing on collaborating with our suppliers to develop and commercialise these technologies and prove their capabilities.

Our investment in the development of recycled raw material – repolyol – from end-of-life products is significant and involves a range of cutting-edge projects with leading chemical companies.

The partnership we have fostered with Dow Chemicals relies on combining Dow’s expertise in complex chemistry with Vita’s ability to harness this science to create advanced products. In 2021, this united approach led to the commercialisation of our high-quality Orbis™ foam range. This highly innovative product utilises polyol materials extracted by Dow from end-of-life mattresses and converted into repolyols.

We are also partnering with Evonik to introduce their repolyol materials into our Orbis™ range and are hoping to form the chemical basis of a 100% recycled product.

Partnering with academia

Being at the vanguard of product and technological innovation means having access to the sharpest scientific minds and a wealth of R&D resources.

This is an exciting area for our business, which sees us conducting research with universities into products that may not materialise for five to ten years. It is truly a window into the industry’s future.

Our ongoing research with Bolton University focuses on developing alternatives to TCPP and melamine, two commonly used flame retardants. The aim is to find an alternative flame retardant that does not affect the physical/mechanical properties of the foam. As well as offering safety benefits, removal of TCPP and melamine would ensure that it would be easier to repurpose all post-production scrap and trim foam from the customer for a broad range of rebond applications.

Partnering with regulatory bodies

The policy landscape in Europe has evolved from focusing on waste to waste prevention and resource productivity. As a result, rules on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for mattresses, where the financial and practical burden of managing waste is transferred to producers, will be introduced in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scotland (followed by the rest of the UK) by 2025.

Maximising partnership power, Vita has nurtured many mechanisms to engage and potentially shape EPR and related policies, including through trade associations and in partnership with others in the value chain.

We strive to support policy makers’ decisions by providing information and expertise. And we work closely with industry bodies such as EUROPUR – the European Association of Flexible PU Foam Blocks Manufacturers – to help set high standards for product stewardship and customer safety within our sector.

We have fully embraced the power of partnerships to help drive more rapid change across our organisation and the broader industry. Partnerships underpin our circular economy approach and amplify our call for change. Most importantly, they ensure our sustainability efforts are consistent, verifiable, and grounded in action.

Rob Evans,
Procurement Director at The Vita Group




Posted 21st June 2022

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