Working together to give household items a second life in Latin America


Every day, Team Dow continues to innovate towards a more circular and sustainable future – and our ambition has led us to look in unexpected places. Our commitment to addressing the unique needs of communities where we operate around the world, often times lead to the building of business ecosystems with big, positive impacts. Take for example our RENUVA Mattress Recycling Program in France, where we engaged the value chain to pioneer a chemical recycling process that would give discarded mattresses a second life.

Similarly, In Latin America, the waste management process of discarded mattresses is an urgent issue and setting up proper collection and disposal infrastructure is vital to addressing the concern. Since 2021 in Hortolândia (SP), the Reuse campaign – supported by the Dow Business Impact Fund – is raising awareness around correct polyurethane foam disposal by supporting the selective collection and reuse of materials extracted from sofas and mattresses.


There is little-to-no infrastructure in place in Latin America to properly discard old furniture and bedding

In Brazil and across areas of Latin America, proper disposal of foam-based household items such as couches, living room chairs and most notably, end-of-life mattresses is an issue many sustainability leaders are working to solve. Several thousands of these items are disposed in local landfills where the materials are discarded and unable to be recycled.


Work with local partners to pioneer a new mechanical recycling program to give discarded mattresses a second life in Brazil

Changing behaviors is no small feat, but Team Dow took on the task of giving these polyurethane foams a second life. The team leveraged resources from Dow’s Business Impact Fund to engage local NGOs and value chain customers to partner with Dow to create this community project, Reuse.

Through Reuse, more than 3,500 items were collected and recovered from landfills and mechanically recycled using rebounded material. The rebounded foam can then be used to create a new mattress or other furniture from the disposable foams. Piloted in the city of Hortolândia, Brazil, in partnership with non-profit organization Akatu, and the Municipality of Hortolândia, the campaign is built on three pillars of action: Education, Communication and Improvement of Waste Management.

  • Education: The Reuse campaign includes a series of education actions coordinated by Akatu that offers training and educational activities on conscious consumption and waste management for teachers and students in more than 30 municipal schools.
  • Communication: A digital communications campaign will accompany the work to raise awareness of recycling and polyurethane circularity.
  • Improvement of Waste Management: The project will kick off with six Voluntary Drop-Off Areas with infrastructure to accommodate discarded materials and a logistical system for transporting the recovered materials.

The Reuse campaign leveraged key learnings from the successes of the RENUVA™ program in Europe, which recycled polyurethane foam from end-of-life mattresses and turned it into RENUVA™ polyols for use in new mattresses and other applications, using the world’s first industrial scale reactor for chemical recycling in France.


“The Reuse Campaign helps us live our mission to be conscious consumers and reduce waste. Working together with Dow, we were able to develop solutions to lessen excess waste and give a product a new life, all while raising awareness so more people can make sustainable choices.”
- Fernando Martins, Akatu Institute Project Coordinator

Why is this initiative important?

Reducing waste in landfills requires partnership and technological advancements across the value chain. Through meaningful partnerships and our technical expertise, we help play a role in giving disposed products a second life, thereby reducing waste in landfills and overall environmental impacts – and we’re just getting started.

The team is planning to grow the program to include other household appliances such as refrigerators, while also replicating the existing program into other areas of Latin America, more specifically Colombia next.

"We are very excited about Reuse, as the results exceeded our expectations, especially in relation to the number of parts collected and treated as well as the quantity of reused materials that are no longer destined for landfills.” says Thales Oliveira, Sustainability Leader, Dow Polyurethanes in Latin America. “With the success of the initiative, thanks to engagement of our partners and local community, we intend to replicate this model in other cities in Brazil and, in doing so, strengthen the culture of the circular economy in Latin America.”