A world without plastic?
No thank you!

Carelessly discarded bags, straws and one-way bottles, all made of plastic. No other material is better suited to be a symbol of what we are doing to our planet. Plastics have a bad reputation. But do they actually deserve it? 

Our author
Robin Dyck
Robin DyckGlobal Communications Coordinator, Freudenberg Home and Cleaning Solutions

A plastic-free world: finally, parks free of garbage, clear lakes and clean oceans. At first glance, simply prohibiting plastics seems like the ideal way to get the trash problem under control.  But sustainability experts Dr. Meriem Tazir and Dr. Maike Hora aren’t buying it.

Dr. Maike Hora, founder and chief executive of e-hoch-3, explains why she considers a ban on plastics the wrong thing to do. Her company has specialized in advising companies on their sustainability strategy.  

It makes sense to cut down on the use of unnecessary plastic,  but a complete ban is not desirable: “In their material characteristics, plastics are incredibly multifaceted. There are many applications that would be impossible without them,” Hora said. “Plastics can also save lives. The example of IV bags in hospitals comes to mind.” 

Plastics can also save lives. The example of IV bags in hospitals comes to mind. 

Dr. Maike Hora, founder and managing director of e-hoch-3

There are areas of life that would not be possible without plastic and its positive material properties.

Plastic can even save lives in some areas of everyday life, for example in the use of infusion bags in hospitals.

Many foods can be preserved for longer with special plastic packaging.

This prevents consumers from having to throw away valuable food.

To avoid plastic waste, it makes sense to reuse plastic. The Turbo bucket from Vileda is made from over 70 percent recycled material.

Over 95 percent of the plastic is mono-material. In contrast to complex composite materials, this simplifies the recycling process.  The components are designed by Freudenberg in such a way that recycling centers can easily separate them.

Cardboard, a sustainable alternative?

At second glance, the allegedly more sustainable alternatives do not deliver what they promise. One example is cardboard packaging. It is often comparatively thick and heavy. The consumption of water and energy during its manufacture and recycling is high. Still, the notion persists that it is more sustainable than plastic alternatives. 

Why is that? “It comes down to human nature. Paper is a very old material. Its raw material comes from trees, and trees are a good thing. Wood decomposes naturally. And what is natural is intuitively sustainable,” she said, summing up the conventional wisdom. “Besides, the collection systems for paper and cardboard are well established in much of the world. So people know there are functioning disposal and recycling systems for them.”  

Material reuse and product design as the way forward

A multitude of factors have to be considered to track a material’s impact on the environment. They range from manufacturing and use, to disposal and recycling.  

This is a complicated matter. In many cases, the impact of one or another material can only be identified indirectly. “For example, if I can make perishable foods last longer with special plastic packaging, I can keep consumers from having to throw valuable nutrition away,” Hora says.   

The real problem is not the material but rather its use. “When I use and discard a single-use plastic product such as a plastic fork, the result is trash. If I use it again and again, I‘m not generating waste.”  


Nonetheless, plastics remain a problem for the environment. But the solution isn’t a ban on the materials. Instead, there should be a systematic look at the entire material cycle. “Freudenberg has chosen the right course here, ” Tazir says. “Through collaborations with recyclers such as Rester Oy in Finland or in the Netherlands, Freudenberg is having an impact on the resource chain beyond its own manufacturing, reintroducing plastics into the material cycle.” 

The DESIGNED-4-CIRCULARITY approach that we jointly created with Freudenberg has the goal of developing products so as much material as possible from the current  material cycle can be recycled into them.

Dr. Meriem Tazir, Sustainability Expert and CEO of e-hoch-3

Freudenberg is also setting benchmarks in product design, she says. “The DESIGNED-4-CIRCULARITY approach that we jointly created with Freudenberg has the goal of developing products so as much material as possible from the current  material cycle can be recycled into them,” she says. Freudenberg is thus creating the conditions for them to be re-added to the cycle as easily as possible after disposal.” 

  • Family Ties

    Freudenberg has been in family ownership for seven generations. And there are entire dynasties of employees, who have worked for the technology company for decades. The following examples illustrate employees’ strong sense of attachment to Freudenberg.

    Read more
  • A journey through time with our founder

    Join us as we navigate through the chronicles of Freudenberg's origins. Delve into the profound personality of our founder Carl Johann Freudenberg and unravel a story of innovation and vision.

    Read more
  • A world without plastic? No thank you!

    Is plastic's bad reputation justified? For some surprising answers, two experts share their views.

    Read more
  • Long road from Syria to the Bergstrasse

    Ali Abo Nasser came to Germany as a refugee. We tell his Freudenberg story. 

    Read more
  • Digital technologies for the medicine of the future

    Digitalization: medicine of the future

    Read more
  • An invention from Japan conquers the world

    What are smart plasters and how do they work?

    Read more