The Trend Towards Sustainability: Nonwovens Industry Reacts With A Broad Product Range
For the provision of sustainable nonwovens, it is necessary already today to design more materials for the use of tomorrow in the whole range of materials technology. The goal is to achieve optimal recycling and disposal »after tomorrow« in terms of ecology and economy. This is an important task for process and product developers in research and industry, who already offer first products to the market.
The nonwovens industry certainly creates innovative impulses with economic and functional products, for example for filtration, for channeling and storing water, for obtaining usable surface water, for preventing evaporation of water and for protecting glaciers and ice against melting. Peter Böttcherin the journal »Nonwovens & Technical Textiles« (avr).
Plastic products such as films or nonwovens are referred to as bioplastics if they are biodegradable or compostable regardless of the raw material base according to the European standard EN 13432. Among the bio-polymers of plant raw materials, the polylactide (PLA) is given great opportunities because it combines good functional properties with excellent degradation properties. In addition, to save food resources, PLA should in future be obtained from biomass instead of corn starch.
For example, Trevira offers a range of PLA fibre types for the production of nonwoven fibre fabrics – for example, fibres for mechanical nonwoven-bonding by needle punching or water jet blending, or the use of Biko fibres for thermal consolidation in wet nonwoven production.
Of course, the decisive factor is the actual production process, which above all aims to provide energy sustainability by reducing energy consumption. Examples are: Solutions for increasing surface mass uniformity and thus reducing nonwoven fabric mass plus developing plant technology for processing renewable raw materials such as Lyocell and PLA. The use of combined heat and power plants for the supply of electricity and heat, heating with gas instead of electricity as well as energy efficiency packages for calanders with housing, use of efficient motors and frequency-controlled pumps are most energy efficient – as much as recovery of braking energy and heat recovery from exhaust air.
Example Applications For Current Sustainable Nonwovens
Nonwoven fabrics in the hygiene sector are mostly used as so-called »disposable products«. Here the not so sustainable use of raw materials create significant positive effects for the economic and ecological disposal of solid or liquid problematic waste. In his article in avr issue 3/18, Peter Böttcherlists further concrete examples:
The nonwoven fabrics company Freudenberg, for example, offers an eco version of wadding made of fibreballs. This sustainable high-performance padding for use in sports is made of 80 percent recycled fibres. The remaining 20 percent is a binder material that serves as a padding for the production of a coherent surface.
Geosynthetics such as needle nonwoven fabrics or geogrid are produced with relatively low energy consumption and emission-free. Their use in civil engineering and road construction not only has economic but also ecological effects. In a project involving the construction of a two-lane overpass, for example, the Huesker company demonstrated that, instead of classical construction and the replacement of clay ,the use of geosynthetics show that transport-related C02emissions could be reduced by 35 per cent and construction costs by 55 per cent.