INNOVATING TOGETHER The stories that make us Freudenberg
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Sustainable use of waste – The second life of a PET bottle

While waste removal from our homes is a common and widely experienced process, what happens afterwards is less familiar and a bit more mysterious. After collection, an industrial system works to transform waste into new resources. Every day around 7 million PET bottles arrive at the Freudenberg Performance Materials (FPM) site in Novedrate, Italy, from sorting centers all over Europe. After a recycling process that lasts about two hours, the bottles are transformed into rolls of usable nonwoven material.

The history of recycling at Freudenberg dates back to the 90s, when the first plant for the production of polyester from PET bottles postconsumer was installed in Novedrate. The Group was pioneer in the recycling activities in Italy. Later, recycling plants were installed in Pisticci (Southern Italy) and in Colmar, France. Nowadays, about 65 percent of the recycled PET bottles arrive from European waste collection systems which sort plastic wastes into different Recycling materials. Any remaining waste is purchased by independent sorting firms. The recycling process begins by eliminating irrelevant material from the bottles. In a second step, bottles are cleaned and cut into flakes. The flakes are then melted and transformed into fiber (staple technology) or used directly in the spinning process (spunbond technology) to manufacture recycled polyester nonwovens. These nonwovens are used to reinforce bituminous waterproofing Membrane.

The benefit of the production cycle lies not only in the recovery of waste, which would otherwise be disposed, but also in its significant reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Effectively replacing virgin raw materials with recycled polyester allows natural resources to be saved, reducing the environmental impact, as well as eliminating the energy consumption linked to the process of producing virgin Polyester.

Conscious choice

The use of recycled polyester has been a conscious choice for FPM over the years. FPM is proud to offer green products as a part of a responsible and sustainable means of production. This method also reflects FPM’s perception of the environment not as an endless resource, but as an asset to be protected.

Hans-Jürgen Berenbruch, Recycling Manager at FPM Novedrate, described the process as a key principle of FPM’s way of doing business: “Today recycling is no longer perceived as a second choice material, but is actually more desirable because of its contribution to environmental protection. Nevertheless, the amount of recyclable waste collected is not sufficient to satisfy increasing demand. It is necessary, as well as useful, to raise public awareness about the value of recylcing. An increase in recyclable waste collection could help industries favor sustainable development, which would, in turn, reduce environmental impacts. This is surely one of the major challenges we have to face.”

Important Footprint
  • At the FPM site in Novedrate, Italy, every day some seven million PET bottles are transformed into usable nonwovens material. That saves natural resources and energy.

For this reason, the Novedrate site is developing a project aimed at creating a true culture of the recyclable waste collection. The idea is to visit schools, located in the area near the plant, in order to sensitize students – using videos, games and creative laboratories – to the importance of recycling. FPM employees show them how waste, in our case a plastic bottle, can be transformed into an object with a new life and usage. Indeed the flakes of the PET bottles can be used to manufacture household products such as Vileda brooms, padding for apparel, fiber for furniture or nonwovens that make roofs waterproof.

Freudenberg Group

Together with our customers and with our research partners, we develop leading-edge technologies, products, solutions and services. The innovative strength of Freudenberg has many facets. Having pioneered innovation throughout our history – from chrome tanning and the development of the Simmerring to sophisticated and high-tech medical devices – our company is an innovation champion.

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Christian Daumann