Freudenberg Nonwovens finds creative ways to recycle PET bottles

Freudenberg Nonwovens’ Spunlaid Division will recycle 12.4 million 2-liter bottles this year, thanks to new research and a novel commercial product.

Lutradur® ECO is a polyester industrial backing made from 100 percent post consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. It’s being produced in company facilities that recycle their scrap through a closed-loop manufacturing process, resulting in a high-quality product range that is helping customers and Freudenberg Nonwovens achieve sustainable, green operations and design.

Development of Lutradur ECO has evolved over the past 10 years as Freudenberg sought ways to help its construction, landscape and filtration customers achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits for their use of sustainable products. Material and manufacturing engineers pushed to increase the amount of post industrial recycled (PIR) material used to produce Freudenberg’s traditional Lutradur material from 15 percent to 90 percent. When the company migrated to 100 percent PCR, Lutradur ECO material was born.

The Spunlaid Division of Freudenberg Nonwovens will recycle 12.4 million 2-liter bottles this year in the manufacture of their Lutradur ECO product. The factory responsible for producing the product employes a closed-loop process that reclaims and reuses all production scraps.

Lutradur and Lutradur ECO are used to produce building and construction substrates; landscaping and weed block materials; residential and commercial wallpaper and carpet backings; automotive floor mats and carpeting; and specialized filtration devices.

Lutradur ECO is also used in landscaping fabrics and secondary carpet backings for green carpet tiles.

The product is produced at Freudenberg’s Durham, North Carolina plant. The process begins with the collection, bundling, shredding and cleaning of discarded beverage bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Freudenberg Nonwovens then uses proprietary spunlaid manufacturing technology to make rolls of nonwoven polyester fabric from the shredded plastic. Every square yard of 85-gram-weight Lutradur ECO fabric produced keeps six 16-fluid-ounce plastic bottles out of a landfill. In most applications, this product performs as well as backing material made from virgin plastic.

Equally important, Freudenberg Nonwovens’ Durham plant has implemented stringent guidelines to ensure that the nonwoven scrap produced in the manufacturing process is recycled back into the product, thus creating a closed loop industrial system that further reduces the operation’s environmental footprint. Freudenberg’s Durham facility recycles over 9,000 tons of waste polyester annually.

Demand for Lutradur ECO has been growing so steadily that Freudenberg Nonwovens will restart an idled spunbond line to increase production of the recycled fiber by the end of the year. The move will result in creation of 16 new jobs at the Durham plant.