State of Sustainability 2019: More involvement at all levels - Aug/Sep 19

By Darius Helm, Jessica Chevalier and Beth Miller

It’s getting personal-this is the theme that best describes the current trends and developments in sustainability. It’s about personal health and the impact of materials; it’s about increased participation on an individual level, crossing boundaries of home and work; and it’s about how a growing personal awareness of the magnitude of the environmental crisis is adding urgency to the movement.

This year, flooring manufacturers focused a lot on supply chains and material health, as well as certifications with a heavy emphasis on occupant well-being. And while most reported on progress in reductions of energy use, waste, water and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, some of the leading players also addressed the more challenging issues of regenerative practices and carbon negative strategies. There was also a lot of discussion about encouraging employees to act on their own to reduce their footprint in the workplace through a range of small-scale strategies and encouraged them to take that knowledge home and translate it into their personal lives.

Years ago, public discourse shifted from referring to this crisis as “global warming” to calling it “climate change,” ostensibly to emphasize how the issue is much bigger than a simple heating of the atmosphere. Nevertheless, discussions often still revolve around temperature rise as though this defines the limits of the problem. And it hasn’t stopped some public figures from extolling the virtues of a warming world, like growing crops at higher latitudes and lowering transportation costs by moving freight through an ice-free Arctic.

What has become increasingly clear is that the problem isn’t a warming world or even large-scale changes in climate, but rather the effects of these changes on the world’s ecosystems and the human community. Conditions are changing faster than nature can adapt and evolve, threatening the ecological balance. It turns out that humans without an ecosystem are in a real sense like fish out of water. The increasing disequilibrium impacts everything from crop production and the spread of disease to mass migrations and resilience of economic systems.

The sustainability movement in the flooring industry, and in the commercial built environment in general, has started to recognize the pressing need to maintain equilibrium wherever possible. Social equity is more important than ever, including upstream in the raw material supply chain, where the risk of exploiting workers in developing countries is high but where social programs can have sustained impacts on prosperity and human health. And there is a growing understanding that a truly responsible manufacturing model is in fact, as Interface likes to say, a factory that runs like a forest.

This understanding about the interconnectedness of systems in nature and the mindfulness required for human’s interactions with the natural world makes an already complex problem that much more daunting. It’s no wonder that every year seems to bring a half dozen new and entirely essential sustainability standards and environmental certifications. Increasingly complex problems tend not to yield simpler and more straightforward solutions.

In the last few years, environmental awareness has taken root among consumer brands, most of which were fairly indifferent to the topic not too long ago. But just as consumers have started to take a serious look at the issue, consumer brands have woken up and realized how much their reputations depend on their approach to environmental sustainability.

These days, when it comes to sustainability, big brands and prominent firms like to put forward a good face. Flooring companies should understand this since they do it themselves. Aquafil certainly does, and has leveraged its understanding into a massive global business, with over 700 licenses with consumer brands, including some of the most prominent brands in the market, from Adidas and Patagonia to Stella McCartney and Prada. For these brands, Aquafil’s Econyl fiber has cachet. Prada and others realize that their own brands can be further elevated through these sorts of green partnerships.

This growing awareness among consumers and the elevated environmental profile of consumer brands may signal a turning point. Environmentally friendly products have typically only found traction in the commercial markets, with customers in the residential market more concerned about issues of price, style and performance. But now people have so much more exposure to the issue, and it seems poised to impact their buying habits.

However, like so many aspects of the environmental sustainability movement itself, it seems as though most of the activity is at the higher end, where cost is not as much of an issue. Consumers who aren’t big earners may be more concerned about their role in the environment but may still feel that they can’t afford to engage in any meaningful way. They feel, with good reason, that going green is a rich person’s game. Hopefully, flooring producers will recognize the opportunity and focus more heavily on greening their residential offerings-as long as they can hit the price points that consumers can afford.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system is being updated, with the full suite of LEED v4.1 rating systems available for all categories of projects. When it was first rolled out in 2017, LEED v4.1 was only applicable to Operations and Maintenance projects. Now it can also be used for projects in Building Design and Construction, Interior Design and Construction, Residential, and Cities and Communities.

Also, a series of updates in March of this year makes the system more accessible, user-friendly and collaborative. It also includes a carbon metric for new and existing buildings to quantify environmental impacts.

Probably the biggest news at Interface is that its entire global portfolio, including carpet tile, LVT and Nora rubber flooring, is carbon neutral, with Nora added at the beginning of this year. The status is achieved by a combination of internal programs-using recycled materials, improving energy efficiency and using renewable energy-and the purchase of carbon offsets. The carbon offsets cover raw material impacts, transport and customer use (e.g. cleaning), along with small emissions in carpet production.

In terms of Interface’s Americas business: since 1996, energy efficiency at manufacturing sites has improved 42%, GHG emissions from energy use at manufacturing sites is down 99%, the average carbon footprint of carpet made by Interface is down 70%, total water intake intensity at manufacturing sites is down 93%, and waste sent to landfills is down 94%. Also, 99% of energy used at manufacturing sites comes from renewable sources, and 62% of the material in the products the firm sells is either recycled or from bio-based sources, while recycled materials make up 73% of the content in the carpet tile it produces.

Interface’s operations in the U.S. and Europe use 99% renewable energy, while its Asia-Pacific operations are in the 40s, bringing the company-wide global average to 89%.

In the last couple of years, Interface has shifted its focus from Mission Zero, a set of reductions to make the firm environmentally neutral by 2020, to Mission Climate Take Back, a more comprehensive initiative that goes beyond being neutral to being a positive force-using carbon as a resource, building factories that operate like forests, and driving these developments not just at Interface but across the industrialized landscape. The firm is still on the early part of this journey, but it is testing out lots of ideas, like Proof Positive, a prototype carpet tile showcased two years ago that is carbon negative.

What’s interesting, the firm reports, is that feedback from customers and stakeholders indicates that they want them doing even more. They want even more ambitious programs. They want to go deeper in terms of capturing and using carbon, and they even want more advocacy-like positions on climate change and its ramifications, or on the Paris Agreement and the U.S.’s withdrawal from it.

One of Interface’s most challenging goals is having 100% of its materials be bio-based or recycled by 2020. There’s still a yawning chasm between the current 62% and 100%. The firm has been turning its attention to LVT. When it first launched its LVT program, sourced from South Korea, in 2016, it was made of 100% virgin PVC. But just last month, the firm achieved 25% recycled content, all post-industrial. Next year the firm will focus on incorporating some post-consumer material to drive up total recycled content.

Last year, Shaw Industries conducted a new materiality assessment and also focused heavily on the demands of its stakeholders, and as a result the firm has reoriented its sustainability efforts to address “planetary health and human experience at the same time.” To underscore this new perspective, its 2018 environmental report is titled “sustain[HUMAN]ability.”

The materiality assessment, conducted by Framework, a sustainability consulting firm, identified the top ten priorities among Shaw’s stakeholders and leadership. These include standards like climate change and greenhouse gases, product end of life, human impact, environmental impact, transparency and product disclosures, and supply chain management, along with some that illustrate the new focus, like customer satisfaction, sustainability marketing and talent management.

Shaw cites a range of achievements in the last year, including attaining carbon neutrality on all of its commercial carpet globally through the use of carbon credits, in-house solar power and a host of other strategies. Nearly 90% of the products Shaw manufactures are Cradle to Cradle certified. The firm’s one-megawatt solar array at Plant 15 in Cartersville, Georgia, launched in 2013, provides an estimated 1.4 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. And in May of last year, the firm started up its cogeneration plant at its fiber facility in Columbia, South Carolina, reducing its GHG emissions by about 26,000 metric tons a year.

Also, the firm’s cumulative recycled bottle PET total, dating back to 2009, stands at over 24 billion-now at a rate of over three billion a year-for use as face fiber on residential broadloom, accounting for up to 50% of face fiber content. And in terms of Shaw’s overall use of recycled material, according to the sustainability report, it makes up more than 9% “of what goes into manufacturing Shaw’s products.”

The firm’s 2018 environmental results show GHG emissions intensity levels about flat with 2017, and a 36% reduction in water intensity, compared to 34% in 2017, indicating progress toward the 2030 goal of 50% reduction. And company-wide, recycled and reused water accounts for nearly 15% of total consumption. However, 2018’s 13% decrease in energy intensity-toward a 40% reduction by 2030-is a retreat from last year’s 16% recorded decrease. Next year, Shaw plans on recasting its 2030 environmental goals to align with its new approach.

Shaw has also been working on PVC-free resilient tiles, like the PET Resilient line introduced in mid-2018, with 40% recycled content. And for about a year Shaw Contract has offered Bio-Based Polyurethane, a PVC-free floor with bio-based content from canola and castor oils. The product, which features a print film, ExoGuard+ finish, fiberglass layer and fleece backing, comes in both sheet and tile. Patcraft offers the same construction in its EcoSystem collection.

Mohawk Industries, the largest flooring manufacturer in the world, has developed a very unique environmental sustainability strategy in recent years with an emphasis on expanding its “handprints” while reducing its environmental footprint, to the extent that its 2018 sustainability report is titled, “Believe in Better: The Power of Our Handprint.”

In terms of footprint reductions-and, it’s worth noting, including the addition of Australia’s Godfrey Hirst, acquired last year-the 2018 report shows a 16.9% decrease in GHG emissions intensity from 2010, and an 11.3% decrease from 2017. Water intensity is down over 36% since 2010 and 2.8% since 2017. Energy intensity, which has decreased 3.8% since 2010, is down 3.7% since 2017. And waste to landfill is down over 47% in 2020, and down 11.4% since 2017.

When it comes to handprints, the first project came in a couple of years ago, retrofitting showerheads in dorms at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, for the Water Petal certification of Lichen carpet tile, the first product to achieve Petal certification under the Living Product Challenge. And last year it added five more Living Product Challenge floorcoverings, achieving Energy Petal certification by deploying ten Smartflower solar power units in a range of disadvantaged communities. Three were installed last year, another four are going up this year, and the final three will be up and running before the end of 2020.

New this year are showerhead handprint programs at Alabama State and Benedict College in South Carolina, with savings of 1.2 million gallons at Alabama State and 800,000 at Benedict. And this year every product coming out of its Glasgow, Virginia carpet tile facility is Living Product Challenge Petal certified, attaining 17 of the 20 credits.

Another floorcovering giant is Tarkett, which is headquartered in France and has over 35 production facilities worldwide, including substantial operations in North America. The firm's recent acquisitions include Desso, a Dutch carpet producer, in 2015, and Lexmark, a U.S. carpet producer with a strong position in the hospitality market, just last year.

The big sustainability initiative at Tarkett right now, as part of its material health focus, is the optimization of its raw materials. To date, over 3,000 materials, representing 98% of its total raw material supply, has been third-party assessed by EPEA (Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency) for health and environmental impacts, based on Cradle to Cradle criteria. The goal is to hit 100% by 2020.

The firm recently developed a PVC-free resilient tile line called ID Revolution, which today is only available in the European market. The Cradle to Cradle Gold certified floor is 83% recycled or “bio-sourced.” The recycled content, accounting for 24% of the weight of the product, is in the form of PVB, the polymer laminated into windshield glass-Tarkett already has an established stream of post-consumer PVB from windshield glass for its Ethos commercial backing system. The bio-sourced content includes 49% calcium carbonate, a standard filler that is fortunately a naturally abundant mineral, and over 10% bio-based content-the 0.55mm wearlayer is a crosslinked polyurethane derived from corn. According to the firm, ID Revolution is also 100% recyclable.

All of Tarkett’s facilities globally have closed loop water systems, though the firm is still working with Lexmark to evaluate its system and its needs. Overall, the system has reduced water consumption by 68%. Renewable energy accounts for 27% of its global needs, with a lot of variation from region to region and facility to facility. Its Ohio production facility uses 100% renewable energy, as does its linoleum facility in northern Italy.

Also, GHG emissions intensity is down 8.5% over the last seven years. And 67% of its production waste is recycled, toward a goal of 75% by next year.

One firm with a clear and streamlined sustainability vision is Aquafil, which has been producing nylon 6 for nearly 40 years and Econyl fiber since 2011. Econyl is a 100% recycled nylon 6 with both post-consumer and post-industrial content. The firm’s depolymerization facility in Slovenia gets a steady stream of post-consumer material, mostly from Europe and the U.S.

Last year, Aquafil started up its recycling facility in Phoenix, Arizona, and its second facility, on the outskirts of Sacramento, California, will start up in the next month or two. The facilities process nylon 6 carpet, producing pellets that are then shipped to Europe. The Phoenix facility is still running at a reduced rate as technical improvements are made. Plus, supply is subpar right now. PET accounts for the bulk of the collection stream-about two thirds of the total-and nylon 6 only accounts for 25%, and a lot of that nylon 6 is washed away in the PET waste streams that are currently close to valueless. Aquafil estimates that as much as 75 million pounds of nylon 6 carpet is lost in the 300 million pounds of carpet discarded annually in California.

Globally, Aquafil runs on close to 100% renewable energy, both from solar arrays in a handful of locations, including in Slovenia and in Cartersville, Georgia, and from purchased energy credits. It has also developed systems for sharing unused energy to drive down GHG emissions. For instance, it shares excess heat and steam from its Slovenia facility with a nearby water park to heat its water, and it similarly shares energy from its main Econyl facility in Arco, Italy with a neighboring firm.

Aquafil is also working on a long-term bio-materials project with Genomatica, a San Diego research and development firm. The joint venture, into which Aquafil has invested several million dollars to date, seeks to create caprolactam, the organic compound from which nylon 6 is synthesized, through the actions of bacteria on bio-masses. Aquafil has been working with Genomatica for about three years and hopes for functional results in two or three more. The initiative, called Project Effective, is also supported by a handful of other companies.

Under the leadership of CEO Harlan Stone, HMTX Industries, formed in June of this year to bring under a single umbrella several related brands-Metroflor, Teknoflor, Aspecta, Vertex and Halstead-sells a range of resilient flooring products through various channels to the residential and commercial markets.

Bringing the brands together means bringing all of the brands’ sustainability objectives and achievements under one roof, and in order to handle the expanded responsibilities, the firm has beefed up its sustainability team, which is headed up by Rochelle Routman. The team includes two quality assurance and sustainability managers, Lin Gao in Calhoun, Georgia and Monique Vergouwen in the Netherlands.

The firm’s Naturescapes resilient flooring, originally introduced as a sheet product in 2018 under the Teknoflor brand, has a PVC-free heterogenous construction that includes 50% calcium carbonate and 25% bio-based content in the polyurethane from ingredients like castor oil. It was the first resilient product to achieve Petal certification under the Living Product Challenge. This year, Teknoflor showcased it at NeoCon in both tile and sheet, receiving a Best of NeoCon Gold award in the healthcare flooring category.

Earlier this year, Routman was one of ten professionals recognized for their work in the regenerative design community with Living Future Hero awards from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), and according to the firm, Routman was the first award recipient from the manufacturing community. HMTX is the first global Angel Sponsor of ILFI, and the first sponsor in China.

Last year, Mannington Mills, a privately owned multi-category flooring producer, moved its rubber flooring production from California to a state-of-the-art facility in Calhoun, Georgia. And earlier this year the firm completed construction of a new facility, also in Calhoun, for the production of rigid LVT. The firm anticipates that production will start toward the end of the year.

Last year, the firm introduced a PVC-free resilient tile called Cirro that has an acrylic polymer construction. The product is manufactured in the U.K. and sold in Europe. Slight adjustments to its chemistry have been introduced to improve its performance.

Mannington is currently in the midst of an evaluation of the supply chains for its wide array of flooring products-the firm makes commercial broadloom and carpet tile, residential and commercial sheet goods and LVT, laminates, hardwood and rubber flooring and accessories.

Milliken, which is primarily a commercial flooring producer, has completed a solar installation at its headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Also, the firm is recasting its original sustainability goals-to reduce all GHG emissions, water usage and solid waste intensities by 20% by 2020 from a 2010 baseline-in order to report from the perspective of its parent, Milliken & Company. Floorcovering only accounts for 25% of Milliken & Company’s business. Chemical and colorants make up another 25%, while the other 50% is performance textiles.

The new sustainability goals seek to reduce intensity of GHG emissions, water usage and solid waste by 25% by 2025. Also, all new products will be evaluated in terms of lifecycle impact to ensure lower impacts as new products are developed. The corporate sustainability report will be measured against a 2018 baseline.

Earlier this year, Milliken & Company formed a partnership with PureCycle Technologies to turn recycled polypropylene into virgin-quality resin. Milliken’s plastic additives play a crucial role in reinvigorating the recycled polymer. Currently, only 1% of polypropylene is recycled, according to the firm, so this technology could transform polypropylene’s environmental profile.

Milliken is researching different LVT compositions from a performance standpoint, most notable the acoustics issue, and it has partnered with the International Well Building Institute to research how flooring contributes to acoustics, as well as underfoot comfort conferred by its attached cushion, moisture mitigation and potential solutions to eliminate mold growth.

As a founding member of the Well Living Lab, a collaborative effort with Delos, a wellness real estate and technology firm, and the Mayo Clinic, Milliken is broadening its focus to include the actual health of employees and consumers in order to stave off increasing healthcare costs.

Bentley Mills, a California-based producer of carpet tile and broadloom, also sources LVT from Europe and Asia. Last year, the firm reported that it had reduced water intensity by 10% year over year; water consumption so far in 2019 is on par with 2018’s numbers despite increased production. The first phase of Bentley’s comprehensive program to reduce usage of water, natural gas and energy was completed in December 2018. In order to reduce water usage, the company retrofitted 50 fixtures with low-flow faucets, saving 2.3 million gallons of water on an annual basis. Additionally, it updated one of the saltwater tanks with a meter that allows for close monitoring, further saving several thousand gallons per year.

The firm is currently reviewing available tax incentives and credits to develop a plan for an expansion and renovation of its 20-year-old solar array at its mill in City of Industry, California.

Also, 3,554 light fixtures were retrofitted, which saves 1.4 million kWh on an annual basis. And air compressor leak repairs are estimated to save the firm another 250,000 kWh annually. In total, 1.64 million kWh are saved, equating to roughly 33% of electricity consumption on an annual basis.

Bentley’s sustainability program, formerly called Evergreen, has been rebranded as Lens to reflect the differing views everyone has on sustainability. The new program enables those who value different sustainability measures to locate that information in a transparent manner. The hope is that the new program will lead to deeper conversations into what consumers and specifiers need.

Early in 2019, Engineered Floors rolled out product-specific, third-party verified HPDs and EPDs for its LVT products. The company likes the HPD and EPD system because it promotes a high level of transparency, and after the extensive analysis for those certifications has been completed, other certifications are relatively easy to achieve.

As an only decade-old company, Engineered Floors has the advantage of utilizing new machinery and processes that were implemented with an eye on water and energy efficiency. In 2018, the company’s new Dalton-based plant, Old Dixie, came on line. According to Russ DeLozier, director of sustainability, the facility utilizes a “modern way of making commercial carpet.”

In 2016, Engineered Floors merged with contract carpet manufacturer J+J Flooring. J+J achieved Zero Waste to Landfill status in 2014 and has maintained the status under Engineered Floors, which will eventually roll out the practice across the entire business.

Crossville has been working steadily on completing EPDs and HPDs for its products, and now has around 85% of products covered-everything the manufacturer makes in its own facilities plus it gauged porcelain panels and countertops. Only a portion of its glass, stone and wall tile products remain incomplete.

Last year, Crossville recycled close to 12 million pounds of fired porcelain, bringing its cumulative total to nearly 126 million pounds since the 2009 launch of the Tile Take-Back program and subsequent Toto USA recycling partnership. In addition, last year the company recycled three million pounds of filtrate waste from its manufacturing process, and all its water is recycled internally.

Kiln usage accounts for 50% of Crossville’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the company is exploring new technologies to increase its efficiency with natural gas usage, systems that would enable the company to put its kilns in smarter modes when they are not in use. In the meantime, the company strives to get the best recovery it can from its five kilns.

Forbo will release its annual sustainability report in the third quarter; the firm has been publishing sustainability reports since 2000. This year, it will unveil a new sustainable strategy to be rolled out globally, transforming the company’s linear business model into a circular one. In addition, one of the highlights of the report will be the company’s news that it has transitioned one of its sites completely over to biogas for heating.

In 2017, Forbo announced that its 2.5mm Marmoleum product was carbon neutral. This is achieved via a cradle-to-gate approach to carbon elimination, not by purchasing offsets. The company’s next focus is to achieve carbon neutrality for all its linoleum products.

The company is also working to decrease its waste to landfill. In 2007, 70% of production waste was recycled; currently, the rate is 85%.

In addition, last year 16 of the company’s EPDs were renewed, and the company completed an additional 17. This year, it will complete six more.

With the merger of its Atlas and Masland contract brands, the Dixie Group consolidated its West Coast plant to Alabama. The operation is fully powered by renewable (wind) energy.

In 2016, the company launched a zero waste to landfill initiative, using 2015 as its benchmark. That year, only 33% of waste byproduct was diverted. During the first six months of 2019, 91% of the company’s waste byproduct was diverted and repurposed into its original composition or used by the plastics industry. The company’s goal is to partner with recyclers that create alternative products with value.

The Dixie Group introduced its first PVC- and polyurethane-free cushion-backed modular tile, called Sustaina. The product has recycled content in every raw material component: face fiber, backings, pre-coat and adhesive. Depending on the yarn system used with Sustaina, it can result in up to 82% total recycled content, comprised of 55% pre-consumer and 27% post-consumer.

The company’s current goal moving forward is to develop products that meet Gold or Platinum Cradle to Cradle certification.

Gerflor’s new LVT operation in France, called the Klam plant, went live in 2019. Through a process that relies on gravitational dynamics, the Klam plant has a carbon footprint ten times lower than standard LVT plants and can produce products with up to 55% recycled content. Klam utilizes both post-consumer and post-industrial recycled materials in combination with virgin materials free of phthalates. The company’s LVT products can be reused or reclaimed after their useful life within the initial installed space.

In addition, the company has introduced the Landscape collection, its first in the linoleum category, a bio-renewable solution that is USDA certified as 100% bio-based and includes 80% rapidly renewable raw materials. It has also updated its Mipolam Symbioz homogenous sheet line with 100% bio-based plasticizer.

Another major LVT producer is Novalis, which goes to the commercial market under the Ava brand and as Novafloor in the residential market. In 2017, the firm installed a 430,000-square-foot solar array at its facility in China, designed to generate an estimated 400,000 kWh annually. Last year, the firm broke ground on a new manufacturing facility across the street from the existing operation, which will boost its current capacity of one million square feet by an additional 750,000 square feet. And its roof will be used for more solar installations. The firm anticipates starting production in the new facility next year.

The current facility sends zero production waste to landfill and all of the water used in production is reclaimed and reused. And earlier this year, the firm also brought on board a dedicated sustainability manager, Nicole Granath.

Universal Fibers is focused on its EnList four-point commitment to environmental stewardship, rolled out in 2017, which encompasses initiatives related to lifecycle analysis, environmental impact, social responsibility and transparency. Since 2008, Universal Fibers’ Bristol, Virginia facility has reduced its carbon footprint by 8%, and new processes aimed at reducing water usage, initiated in 2016, have resulted in annual water savings of approximately 22% and a 17% reduction in water returns. The company has a goal of being zero waste to landfill by 2020.

Universal Fibers utilizes a host of certification tools in its sustainability pursuits, including ISO 14001 EMS,

GreenCircle Certified Multi-Attribute, environmental product declarations and a value chain chemical management system, which allows the company to deliver pertinent chemical information to customers while also protecting proprietary details.

Last year, Universal Fibers’ global sustainability manager, Ranae Anderson, was presented with the Green Building & Design Women in Sustainability Award.

Armstrong Flooring separated from its hardwood business at the end of last year, so now it is a resilient flooring specialist. The company’s new profile necessitates that Armstrong back out its wood operations from its 2014 baseline statistics for water, waste and energy. The firm is still committed to its 25% reduction targets by 2024.

Armstrong has six production facilities in the U.S.-Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where the firm is headquartered; Kankakee, Illinois; Jackson, Mississippi; South Gate, California; Beech Creek, Pennsylvania; and Stillwater, Oklahoma. The firm also has a high-efficiency facility in China and another in Braeside, Australia, near Melbourne, where a solar array was recently installed, offsetting 10% of its energy needs. Solar is currently being evaluated for the U.S. facilities.

The firm’s On&On recycling program has to date reclaimed about 120 million pounds of material. So far, it’s mostly VCT, but the program is also set up to receive LVT and its PVC-free BBT line.

Pennsylvania-based Ecore International specializes in flooring made from recycled truck tires and is a net consumer of waste. The firm dates back to 1871, starting off as a producer of cork products, and has been recycling rubber since 1987, using a mechanical separation process. Last year, the firm recycled 110 million pounds of truck tires, compared to 91 million in 2017. The tires also contain 20% to 25% steel, which is separated out and sold off.

About a year ago, Ecore installed a closed-loop chilling system, which recycles and cools water for the manufacturing process, conserving over 17 million gallons of water a year. And it has reduced its electricity use by 125,000 kWh per year.

Invista, the producer of the hollow-filament Antron commercial nylon 6,6 fiber as well as Stainmaster residential nylon 6,6 fiber, is upgrading its advanced adiponitrile (ADN) technology at its Victoria, Texas facility, where the technology was first developed. By 2023, the firm reports it plans to invest $2 billion in the upgrades. It also reports that others in the value chain are interested in partnering with Invista to build an ADN plant in China. Adiponitrile is a key ingredient in nylon 6,6.

Last year, the firm integrated its DuraTech topical soil resistant treatment directly into its Lumena solution-dyed nylon fiber-renamed Lumena DNA-eliminating the need for topical stain and soil protection. 

Invista followed up on its 2015 lifecycle analysis with a new analysis earlier this year to reflect the manufacturing and technology enhancements at specific sites that have helped reduce its carbon footprint by 12% over the past four years. Some of these updates have not been captured yet, so the company expects to see improvements beyond 12%. It has also commissioned a material health assessment by a third party. 

Since 2010, the Roppe brand, which produces a range of rubber and vinyl products, has operated the Impact rubber recycling program, and this year the program has been expanded to include Flexco, another major brand under the Roppe Holding Company. The Flexco brand has manufacturing facilities in Alabama, while Roppe’s operations are in Ohio.

Part of the reason for the incorporation is due to a reformulation of Tuflex multipurpose flooring, replacing the crumb rubber in its backing with post-industrial rubber, which is a cleaner material that allows the product to attain Red List Free Declare designation. The product, which is sold through both Roppe and Flexco, is expected to draw on the Impact waste stream for some of its backing content. In the new Tuflex construction, the backing is vulcanized to the hard rubber face, rather than being glued, which makes it easier for the firm to recycle the whole product.

Last year, the Impact program reclaimed 1,700 tons of material, bringing the cumulative total to 17,500 tons.

Over the course of the past 12 months, Universal Textile Technologies has added a percentage of Arropol’s polyol to its backing and foam pad chemistries. The polyol is made from recycled PET carpet. The company also still utilizes the pre-consumer recycled calcium carbonate filler called ReMined, from Imerys Carbonates, instead of coal ash, as well as Cargill’s BiOH as a partial replacement for styrene-butadiene rubber. At this point, upwards of 70% (by weight) of the company’s product ingredients are recycled or renewable. The company reports that BiOH, a biorenewable soy product, has had the greatest positive impact in reducing its environmental footprint, as it enabled the company to lessen its dependency on petroleum-based products.

Generally, the company is also focused on reducing its manufacturing waste, and that includes practical measures such as combining shipments to reduce packaging and transportation.

Florida Tile’s parent company, Panariagroup, completed environmental product declarations for its portfolio of products in March 2019. Over the last year, the firm reports that 6,273,130 gallons of wastewater were recycled back into its production process. It also recycled 286 tons of wood, metal, cardboard, and plastic, and reused nearly 20 million pounds of raw materials. Recycling scrap tile-both fired and unfired-has had the biggest impact on Florida Tile’s environmental footprint.

The Lawrenceburg, Kentucky plant is a Green Squared certified facility, and all of its products are Greenguard certified. The company is currently replacing all lights with LEDs in its manufacturing facility, distribution warehouse and corporate office.

Headquartered in the U.K., Karndean is a major global LVT player, offering three product platforms: dryback LVT, looselay LVT and Korlok, the firm’s rigid LVT. The gluedown and looselay products have EPDs, and all of the products are FloorScore certified. All of its LVT products have a wearlayer that uses 100% virgin PVC, but the backing layers can contain up to 50% post-industrial recycled content.

The company reports that its Korlok line has achieved Silver certification in NSF/ANSI 332, a voluntary, multi-attribute standard that evaluates the environmental and social impacts of resilient flooring products. The firm also offers a take-back program in which tiles and planks are recycled into other vinyl products at the end of their lifecycle.

Tennessee-based Florim USA commissioned a new kiln at the end of July and plans to decommission two 30-year-old kilns. The new kiln will reduce energy consumption on a square foot basis. In addition, the company has recently installed new spray dryers and decommissioned three old ones. Also, the firm is beginning the re-lamping process, installing new lighting throughout the plant, which will also reduce energy use.
Over the course of the last decade, Florim has evolved from utilizing zero recycled content to, now, nearly 50%. The industrial material, comprised of a lot of glass, is collected from a variety of sources, including beer bottles from Nashville honky-tonks, and Florim is actively seeking new streams for recycled content.

Florim is currently working toward ISO 14001 certification, which it expects to complete by the fall. After that, it will pursue Green Squared certification.

In early 2019, Shokar, a Vancouver-based investment group, purchased the European operations of Propex Operating Company, which it renamed Propex Furnishings Solutions. The agreement includes the rights to purchase its U.S. operations in Ringgold, Georgia. Propex produces Artis, the world’s first woven PET primary backing made from post-consumer PET. The product is capable of using 100% post-consumer PET, but the company guarantees 85%.

Modern Densifying, a California pellet mill, is collaborating with Propex to see if it can recycle Propex’s PET waste and return it to the Propex facility as raw material for Artis production. Propex’s facility in Gronau, Germany is also working on developing this technology. Propex recycles nearly all of its polypropylene used in its Polybac and Actionbac products.

The firm reports it is at the halfway mark for replacing standard bulbs with LEDs in Ringgold. The plant produces no emissions and is required to have its gas boilers inspected annually by the state in order to receive an air quality permit.

Tennessee-based Stonepeak Ceramics, which is part of Italy’s GranitiFiandre, is analyzing the conversion of its U.S. plant to a zero-emission facility-GranitiFiandre’s Italian plants have already been converted. Also, to reduce water usage, StonePeak has converted to a dry system to capture raw material dust on some production lines. Instead of creating a sludge that must be processed to yield material, the dry product can be used immediately. The lack of water also lessens the likelihood for stoppage in the raw material blenders, increasing efficiency. While the wet system only allowed for up to 35% recycling of raw material content, the dry system goes up to 100%.

In May 2018, Stonepeak launched its Plane 2.0 panel products. The company has been experimenting with using the line to produce other products by cutting the large panels into smaller product. This method has proven to outproduce the other lines, also eliminating the need to run additional equipment, like kilns, and waste more energy.

The Resilient Floor Covering Institute reports that a pilot certification for rigid core products, with participation from four producers, is in the final stages. The certification will include the ASTM standard already developed, FloorScore certification, and verification of no heavy metals or orthophthalates. And SCS will be offering third-party certification.

Starting in early September, participants in the pilot program will be able to label their products with the certification. The certification will then be promoted to the manufacturing community, and following that, to architects and designers and other specifiers.

Copyright 2019 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Mohawk Industries, HMTX, Stonepeak Ceramics, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., The Dixie Group, Coverings, Florim USA, Tarkett, Mannington Mills, Roppe, Novalis Innovative Flooring, Engineered Floors, LLC, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Interface, Metroflor Luxury Vinyl Tile, Crossville, Armstrong Flooring