Waste to luxury: Audi is making seat upholstery from disposed PET bottles
The fashion industry produces jewellery, clothes and bags from PET bottles. In addition, more and more furniture is being made from waste material such as paper shreds, plastic bottles and wood chippings. Audi is now offering seat upholstery made from recycled material for the new A3 for the first time.
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Seat upholstery made from secondary raw materials are being used for the first time in the fourth generation of the Audi A3. Up to 89% of the textile used consists of recycled PET bottles, which are transformed into yarn in an elaborate procedure. This results in fabrics that guarantee the same quality standards in terms of look and feel as conventional textile upholstery.
The bottle disappears in the hole of the reverse vending machine, and the customer in Germany gets €0.25. But what happens then? While still in the shop, the disposable bottles are compressed for truck transport in order to save space. Once they have arrived at the recycling plant, they are sorted by colour, size and quality. Foreign matter such as the caps are separated. A mill then crushes the bottles into flakes, which are washed, dried and melted down. Nozzles shape continuous plastic strands out of the mass. Once they have dried, a machine chops them into small pieces. This results in granulate, otherwise known as recyclate, and this undergoes extrusion to create threads. Wound onto coils, these are used in the final stage to manufacture materials.
All in all, up to 45 PET bottles with a capacity of 1.5 litres are used per seating system. On top of this, an additional 62 PET bottles were recycled for the carpet in the new Audi A3. Other components in the interior are also increasingly made of secondary raw materials like insulating materials and absorbers, the side panel trims of the luggage compartment, the loading floor and the mats. The company aims to increase the percentage of recycled material in the Audi fleet in the coming years.
At present, the seat upholstery is not yet made completely of recyclable material. “The lower layer of woven material, which is connected to the upper material with adhesive, is what poses the challenge. We are working on replacing this with recyclable polyester," says Ute Gronheim, who is in charge of material development in the textiles division at Audi. “It is our goal to make the seat upholstery completely from unmixed material so that it can be recycled again. We are no longer very far away from this." In the long term, all seat upholstery across all model series will be made of recycled material.
There are three different material designs for the Audi A3; they have an up to 89% share of recycled material. One of these is the steel grey material “Torsion" for the design selection on which yellow contrasting stitching creates visual highlights. In addition, the material “Puls" is available. In the S line, it features the black and silver colour combination and is accentuated by rock grey contrasting stitching. Later on, it follows in black and red with contrasting stitching. In the equipment line in question, these designs form the basic offering and can be combined with side bolsters made of artificial leather.