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