Mohawk Discusses Environmental Initiatives
Calhoun, GA, December 21, 2006--Two decades ago Megatrends identified 10 trends that were expected to change society. The recently published Megatrends 2010 outlines issues that will impact our lives in the coming years, among them, the rise of conscious capitalism as it relates to the environment
That’s where Mohawk has a story to tell. Mohawk has multiple successes in improving its environmental practices, and many of these have direct benefits not just to Mohawk and the environment, but to consumers as well.
Mohawk is one of the world’s largest recyclers of plastic soft drink bottles. Bottles are ground up, melted down, and the PET (polyester) resin is used to make carpet fiber. Every year, 225 million pounds of soft drink bottles (447,000 miles of them, if stacked end to end) are recycled into fiber for Mohawk carpet. That’s about three billion bottles--25% of all the bottles collected in North America--which produce approximately 160 million pounds of recycled fiber.
In all, Mohawk has recycled over 17 billion plastic soft drink bottles for new carpet.
Plastics recycling also occurs within Mohawk’s manufacturing facilities. One good example is Mohawk’s practice of taking scrap fiber, carpet edges, and other material and melting it down to make plastic cores for carpet. The plastic cores are less likely to break than paper cores, and this helps prevent damage to carpet in transit.
The plastic cores can be used many more times than paper cores, and when they’re too old or worn to be used anymore, the plastic is again melted down and recycled to make new cores. It’s estimate that by using plastic rather than paper for carpet cores, Mohawk saves over 68,000 trees annually.
A surprising source for recycling for Mohawk comes in the form of old tires. In the last year, Mohawk recycled 10 million pounds of crumb rubber tires--the equivalent of 720,000 tires--into designer door mats. That’s more tires than are on every taxi cab in the city of Chicago.
Recycling post-consumer products--items that have been in the marketplace like plastic bottles and used tires--is a very important part of Mohawk’s environmental efforts, but the company also recycles post-industrial waste—materials that manufacturers have scrapped—and uses those materials in products. For high-end carpet pads, Mohawk purchases polyurethane foam scraps that come from manufacturing new mattresses, new furniture and rejected seats from new cars. The bottom line is that recycled material helps Mohawk produce premium products that in many cases offer consumers advantages in performance or price over other materials.
In 2003, Mohawk Industries was awarded the Evergreen Award by the U.S. General Services Administration. Each year, three companies are selected to receive this award for operations that respect and protect the quality of our environment. The award acknowledges Mohawk’s conservation of resources throughout all aspects of our operations, design, engineering, processes and production.
One of the reasons for this award is since the middle of the 1990s, Mohawk has been able to cut water usage in its manufacturing facilities by half. The company’s cost of water--both in terms of purchase from utilities and its treatment after use--dropped and became a key area of cost savings.
In 2007, commercial production will begin on the first bio-based SmartStrand fiber made with DuPont Sorona polymer. Instead of petroleum, 40 percent of the fiber will be produced from corn sugar. This product will be exclusive to Mohawk in carpet, and is an example of how technology is giving the carpet industry the ability to replace some petroleum dependence with renewable and sustainable resources. There is no compromise in performance, and bio-based fiber will begin appearing in Mohawk carpet by late 2007.
For commercial carpets, the environmental impact of a product is already a critical part of the selling process, as products are credited LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points. Many architects and building owners require that a structure have a certain number of LEED points before construction can begin. But as the authors of Megatrends 2010 point out, it’s going to be important on the residential side of the business, too.
“We’re all more aware of how issues like energy and the environment can make an impact on our lives, and people are starting to make their voices heard in the marketplace,” said Duncan. “You see this with the growth in organic foods, in cause marketing like the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and other programs where people feel that their purchases are not just for products, but for a greater good. We believe Mohawk has a good story to tell for its efforts in developing sustainable products, and we’re at work on a number of other ideas to expand this effort.”
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