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sustainability in industry

In vehicles of the higher category, leather seats have been the measure of all things for decades. Unfortunately, classic leather leaves a large carbon footprint. The BMW research and innovation center in Munich is therefore looking for alternatives for the interior. Because the demand for it is growing, especially among younger customers.

Anna Goldhofer, materials engineer at the BMW Group, is currently working on a leather substitute material that is 100 percent plant-based. The main component is natural rubber mixed with clay or natural wax. The expert adds that it is often filled with vegetable fibers, for example with rice husks or corn fibers.

BMW is also researching fungal networks, recycled material and growing bacteria. So you want to find environmentally friendly leather alternatives here.

Companies require planning certainty

Like other branches of industry, car manufacturers are under time pressure. In 2019, the EU passed the so-called "Green Deal". The goal: Europe wants to be the first continent in the world to become completely climate-neutral. By 2030, CO2 emissions should be 55 percent lower than in 1990.

But how do you get there? The development of new products and technologies takes many years. And companies shy away from expensive investments as long as they don't know what exactly is in store for them.

Sebastian Bolay, Head of Energy, Environment, Industry at the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), complains that companies have too little planning security. They would only know the big goal of climate neutrality – emitting as few pollutants as possible. But which measures and which bureaucratic requirements will take effect and when, that is still in the balance.

Dresses made from pineapple leaves

At the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, research is being carried out into resource-saving and environmentally friendly raw materials, such as pineapple leaves. The reason: The world market for fibers is becoming ever tighter, for example due to trade restrictions and climatic changes.

Rony Khan from Bangladesh therefore had the idea of making clothing from pineapple fibres. In its homeland they are a waste product and are thrown away or burned. The tests with the fibers have been promising so far.

But not only the pineapple is scrutinized on the Lower Rhine, here it is also about T-shirts made of starch. Or household towels that are treated with ingredients from crab shells and are naturally effective against bacteria and microbes. There are many examples of how annoying waste can suddenly become valuable raw materials.

Eight pants made from a car tire

VAUDE, a manufacturer of outdoor clothing on Lake Constance, even shreds car tires to make trousers. The company can make eight pairs of pants from one car tire. This protects the environment and saves 50 percent energy through recycling.

The company hopes for strict and quick legal requirements for all market participants in order to achieve the goals of climate protection. Hilke Patzwall, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at VAUDE, also demands that products that are proven to be sustainable also be promoted.

This could take the form of a reduced sales tax rate, for example. That would boost the consumption of more sustainable products. And such products would then also be affordable for people with less financial means.

Economy demands more freedom of choice

The trade associations are also worried about high CO2 prices compared to other countries and about detailed legal regulations.

Expert Bolay from the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce therefore demands that companies should decide for themselves how they can implement the Green Deal or achieve the long-term CO2 targets. In this way, one can still remain competitive at the location in Germany.

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