Category Archives: Mission Zero: #OffOil

Turning a Recycling Quandary into a Reuse Opportunity

Mikhail Davis

Many people consider InterfaceFLOR to be the expert in carpet recycling, maybe even “recycling nerds” if they’re feeling a little comedic. And while ReEntry® 2.0 kept over 25 million pounds of old carpet and carpet scrap out of the landfill in 2011 (and 253M pounds since 1995), our system is certainly not perfect. This winter, a partnership with one of the national experts in building product reuse has given us a new tool to tackle tough projects for which our recycling system has had no good solution. The pilot project, working with Nathan Benjamin, Founder of PlanetReuse, has already repurposed more old carpet tile in the first quarter of 2012 than we did in all of 2011.

The Challenge

More than 95% of our US products are 100% recyclable back into new carpet tiles through ReEntry 2.0. But it is also a fact of life at Interface that we continually strive for improvement, so 95% is not good enough. What is that other 5% anyway? The answer is that we manufacture one backing type, a polyurethane-based cushioned tile (NexStep), and import another (bitumen-based Graphlar from our factory in Holland) that have a very loyal customer base, but few end-of-life options beyond waste-to-energy conversion (which we consider a last resort, consistent with the EPA’s Solid Waste Hierarchy).

Polyurethane-backed tiles are inherently unrecyclable (you can’t re-melt this plastic), and the best that can currently be done is to shred them up and either use them to soak up spills or glue them back together as carpet padding (a classic case of “downcycling” to less valuable products in either case).

Interface_RecyclingBitumen dominates the carpet tile market in Europe, where we recently created the first closed-loop system for this backing, but it is rare enough in the US that no infrastructure exists to reclaim it other than waste-to-energy. We’re not going to ship it back to Europe for cost and environmental reasons and experiments recycling it using technology designed for other materials, including asphalt roofing shingles, have not been successful so far.

Exploring Reuse

Reuse has always been part of our ReEntry 2.0 system (about 140,000 pounds were repurposed in 2011), but it was mostly done on a one-off basis where opportunities to repurpose carpet were seized by motivated local salespeople or local charities and all the logistics happened to line up. Once old carpet tile is pulled up, there is always a very short window in which the building owner will hold it, so we need to have the logistics for donation or recycling come together very quickly.

What PlanetReuse adds is access to the national community of local building product reuse stores, which has revealed a very interesting fact to us: there exists a sizable aftermarket nationally for used carpet tile for use in multipurpose areas like entryways, basements and garages.

Successful projects in our pilot with PlanetReuse include moving several full truckloads of old competitor polyurethane tile into reuse stores in Denver and Kansas City, where it is selling well. It also turns out that the durable bitumen-backed Graphlar tiles, even after being used in a retail setting, are still sought after by homeowners for use in entryways and garages.

carpet_fiberWhile our priority for our recyclable products is getting the materials back, our pilot has also managed to find new homes from some of our recyclable carpet tile in local reuse stores in Missouri and Nebraska where transportation back to our recycling plant in Georgia proved cost prohibitive and the tile was still in good condition.

The pilot has also revealed that our focus on product durability and glue-free installation with TacTiles makes

our product ideally suited to many reuse scenarios; broadloom or heavily glued tiles are usually too contaminated after removal to be re-sold. From an environmental perspective, it’s a clear win for an old carpet tile to remain a carpet tile as long as possible before sending it to be recycled.

The Future

The next challenge will be to work with the network of reuse stores to get tiles back after their second life by creating incentives for customers to bring them back to the stores for reclamation or recycling (we still won’t want our product going to the landfill). Feedback from stores on this idea during the pilot has been unanimously enthusiastic. You never know, we might just have the beginnings of a national network of local recycling drop-off locations for carpet tile.

And that’s just the kind of thing that gets a bunch of carpet recycling nerds like us really excited.

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Jill Canales Discusses How 3Form is Turning Waste into New Product

We often don’t think about how many bottles of detergent we go through a year, or how many gallons of milk our family consumes — unfortunately it adds up.

In the video below, Jill Canales discusses how 3Form is actively turning common disposable household items into products that can last 20 years or more.

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Commentary: Why Green Marketing Should Go Beyond Description by Omission

Lindsay James

Jay Bolus recently wrote an intriguing post on GreenBiz.com entitled “Why Green Marketing Should Go Beyond Description by Omission.”  I found myself nodding in agreement throughout his post. Jay was disappointed by the lack of sustainable innovation he found at NeoCon; in response, I’d like to highlight the innovation from InterfaceFLOR.

It will come as no surprise to people who know our company that InterfaceFLOR definitely made sustainability a priority in our product design for NeoCon. We focused on what is present in our products: 100% non virgin nylon type 6 yarn, made from a combination of post-consumer and pre-consumer waste by Aquafil. Sources for the post-consumer recycled content include nylon yarn harvested by InterfaceFLOR from reclaimed carpet as well as nylon fishing nets collected from sea ports.

As we strive to completely eliminate our reliance on petroleum (i.e., “to get Off Oil“), we have been focused on closing the loop on all of our materials – especially the raw materials used to make carpet tile. Years ago we took a big step toward closing the loop on our backing by using 100% recycled content from carpet tile to create our GlasBacRE backing layers. Since then, we’ve been focused on closing the loop on yarn, and introducing 100% non-virgin content yarn at NeoCon marks a huge milestone for us.

100% non-virgin nylon represents a huge leap forward for our industry, because the upstream impacts from nylon are so damaging. Petrochemical extraction and processing to make nylon represents a substantial portion of the carbon footprint of an InterfaceFLOR carpet tile (total transportation represents a mere 3%). By replacing virgin nylon with 100% non-virgin nylon, we reduce the life cycle carbon footprint of our GlasBacRE products from 21.7 pounds CO2E to 11.8 pounds CO2E per square yard – a 46% improvement! Other measurable environmental impacts, like acidification and eutrophication are also reduced dramatically by this revolutionary supply chain shift.

To Jay's excellent point about deserving to know what is in our products, InterfaceFLOR is busily registering Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for all of our products, worldwide. We're on track to have 100% EPD coverage by 2012, and we’ve already published EPDs for two product platforms in the U.S. EPDs provide 3rd party verified disclosure of product ingredients and of full environmental life cycle impacts – all created according to robust ISO protocols and Product Category Rules (meaning the scope and boundary of the Life Cycle Assessment is pre-defined for the entire product category). This is the closest thing to the coveted “Nutrition Facts” label that exists for products, and we need more stakeholders demanding this level of verified transparency from manufacturers.

Next year, I hope anyone looking for sustainable products will come find me in the InterfaceFLOR showroom at NeoCon. Sustainability drives our design every day, so I’m sure I will have some new sustainability innovations to share with you.

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Introducing Non-Virgin Fiber Products At NeoCon 2011

The unlikeliest types of materials are ingeniously finding their way into several of the newest and most exquisite modular carpet tile introductions for 2011 from InterfaceFLOR. Reclaimed carpet fiber from the company’s ReEntry® 2.0 process is being combined with fiber that’s derived from salvaged commercial fishnets plus post-industrial waste and is processed by Aquafil, one of InterfaceFLOR’s global yarn suppliers. The resulting yarn is 100 percent non-virgin and contains a minimum 25 percent post-consumer yarn content. What’s more, when combined with GlasBac® RE, InterfaceFLOR’s non-virgin PVC backing, it yields carpet tiles with total recycled content of 79 percent.

Learn more about InterfaceFLOR’s non-virgin fiber products in the video below:

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Sharing Is Sustainable: ReEntry 2.0 Gets Some New Friends

Building a sustainable future takes a team effort, and InterfaceFLOR has just enlisted a new partner for ReEntry 2.0, the company-wide recycling initiative that has reclaimed more than 220 million pounds of used carpet since 1994. The new partnership with Canadian-based Aspera Recycling, Inc. will be the first in a series of knowledge-sharing relationships that will empower regional carpet recycling operations to implement ReEntry-type systems in their own facilities. With InterfaceFLOR providing technical assistance, Aspera Recycling will soon be able to recycle end-of-life carpet tiles and broadloom into the same reusable fiber and PVC backing used to make InterfaceFLOR products.

As the world's largest manufacturer of commercial carpet tile, InterfaceFLOR recognizes its ability to create a veritable “micro-industry” for recycled carpet. By sharing the technological know-how behind the ReEntry process, InterfaceFLOR can drive the entire supply chain of its PVC backing and reusable fiber towards a more sustainable future. And because InterfaceFLOR's ReEntry 2.0 technology can be replicated on different scales of production, regional suppliers like Aspera Recycling incorporate it to grow their operations and increase the worldwide circulation of sustainable carpet.

Forming partnerships like this is particularly important now, as lawmakers in both Canada and the United States begin to debate changes to waste diversion legislation, including the banning of used carpet from landfills and forcing manufacturers to take responsibility for the end of their products' lifecycles. According to a report issued by the Canadian Carpet Recovery Effort (CCRE), the Canadian market contains few carpet recycling facilities, with most used carpet being shipped back to the United States for reprocessing. Nearly 99% of Canadian post-consumer carpet, and 95% of Canadian commercial carpet currently ends up in landfills.

For nearly 17 years, InterfaceFLOR's commitment to sustainability has allowed it to stay many steps ahead of these trends, and this new partner

ship with Aspera Recycling enables regional suppliers throughout North America to join the front of the pack. Read what InterfaceFLOR and Aspera leadership had to say about the new venture:

“Taking our ReEntry experience and helping to foster the development of regional recycling operations is part of InterfaceFLOR's long-range vision to secure our supply chain and ensure we'll have plentiful access to the recycled materials needed for our flooring products throughout the future. We've pledged to be Off Oil by 2020, which may seem absurdist for a manufacturer of carpeting, a product which traditionally has been petroleum based. But, in fulfilling our mission, we've been developing and perfecting ways to take the tons and tons of old, used carpet that's out there and recycle it into our own products. Our LaGrange facility has proven how effectively this can be accomplished, and now we're ready to help spread this capability throughout Canada, the U.S., and beyond.”

-John Wells, President, InterfaceFLOR

“The Canadian carpet recycling landscape is a few years behind that of the U.S. By adopting the tried and true technology platforms of the industry leader, InterfaceFLOR, Aspera is establishing itself at the forefront of carpet recycling and waste diversion in this country. We couldn't be more delighted to have such a strong technology partner. With waste diversion on the minds and agendas of both government and the consumer, there is finally a viable and credible solution for the Canadian market which will meet the zero waste to landfill mandate.”

-Richard White, President, Aspera Recycling

For more information about InterfaceFLOR's ReEntry 2.0 process, check out this playlist of videos from our YouTube channel.

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