Recycled carpets – the future underfoot?

Sensemaking / Recycled carpets – the future underfoot?

An innovative scheme to remanufacture old floor tiles into new carpet saves resources, carbon and money.

16 Mar 2012

An innovative scheme to remanufacture old floor tiles into new carpet saves resources, carbon and money.

One of Europe’s biggest carpet tile manufacturers has launched an ambitious recovery and recycling scheme as part of its plan to eliminate all negative impacts on the environment by 2020.

The scheme, known as ReEntry 2.0, is a project of InterfaceFLOR, a retailer of modular flooring, which has long had a commitment to recovering its own worn tiles. ReEntry 2.0 takes this much further. It takes back carpet tiles from any source at the end of their life, separates out the component parts (principally the yarn and the backing) and remanufactures them into new tiles.

The initiative should help to reduce the estimated 30 million square metres of tiles sent to landfill or incinerated as waste every year. To maximise its reach, InterfaceFLOR has signed a pan-European agreement with SITA, the waste management specialists. In doing so, the company is not only securing a new stream of raw material – it’s also providing a cost-effective service. “Everyone by law has to pay a price to get rid of old carpet”, says Ramon Arratia, InterfaceFLOR’s Sustainability Director. “So we go to them and say: ‘this is a cost to you, and we’re offering to take it off your hands at the same price, and you’ll know that it is contributing to a solution, not going to waste’.”

Recycling has huge environmental benefits, he says, with emissions on production almost halved recently from 10kg of CO2 per square metre of tile to 5.7kg. “That’s a big deal,” he adds, “but we’re also looking at more radical options to cut emissions further.” These include using 100% recycled nylon [which can be from sources as unexpected as fishing nets], while cutting tile weight by half thanks to improved design. Together these would cut carbon emissions by a further 50%.

Meanwhile, “this (ReEntry 2.0) technology has the potential to solve the [waste] problem for the whole industry”, says Arratia, adding that InterfaceFLOR is now exploring the best business model for expanding it. The company opened a new plant in 2011, with the capacity to recycle up to 600,000 square metres of tiles per year, though this will increase in the future. It will roll out in the Netherlands before being expanded across Europe, the Middle East and Africa within 18 months. – Andrew Collier and Martin Wright

Photo: InterfaceFLOR

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