Sustainability 2009 - August/September 2009

By Brian Hamilton & Darius Helm

The flooring industry remains at the forefront of the sustainability movement, despite suffering through the worst sales environment in a generation. The largest companies, especially the carpet mills, continue to pioneer ways to make their products with both post consumer and post industrial recycled content, as well as bio-based materials. Increasingly, they are using old carpet to produce new product, as well as products for other industries. They are also leaders in using alternative energy, such as methane gas from landfills, to make their products, and even solar panels to produce electricity. They aren’t shy about buying carbon offsets, planting trees, or anything else that will reduce their carbon footprint. They’re also finding ways to use less water—North Georgia, where many of them are located, has been in a drought for several years.

The flooring industry, in general, is also moving toward lifecycle assessment as the best way to determine the sustainability of its products. A few companies have won Environmental Product Declarations, which to date is probably the most advanced process for sustainability assessment. Increasing numbers of carpet companies are having products certified under NSF 140-2007, the unified sustainable carpet standard, which was five years in the making through a consensus driven approach that included federal and state government representatives, end users and manufacturers.

The hard surface players are also becoming more involved. The National Wood Flooring Association has been heavily involved in the sustainability issue, with its Responsible Procurement Program. It has also had lifecycle analyses performed on solid wood flooring.

The resilient players are also increasingly finding ways to use recycled or bio-based content in their products, although vinyl in general continues to get a bad rap among many in the design community, even though there is plenty of information to suggest that vinyl is greener than is generally portrayed.

Nevertheless, there are still so many measures of product and company sustainability, including third party certifications, that it can get a bit confusing, especially for specifiers who have to wade through all the information. EcoScorecard, the website software that computes how each flooring choice from a particular manufacturer will impact a green project, continues to grow, and so far is being used by eight different flooring manufacturers on their websites.

Green building is continuing its momentum, despite the economy. More governmental entities are incorporating LEED requirements into their bid specifications and building codes, and it’s becoming a market requirement that top level office space carries a LEED certification. So there will be plenty of opportunity for the greenest flooring firms. One thing that’s not clear is if this will give an outsized advantage to the large players, who often have the budgets for dedicated sustainability staff and can afford to experiment with different materials and manufacturing methods.

Last year, Shaw Industries formed a Sustainability Council, which has become the driving force behind its whole sustainability effort. It’s looking at everything from manufacturing processes to the sourcing of materials and the whole supply chain. The council has identified two key issues it wants to tackle, energy and water use. With energy being a critical strategic issue for the company, Shaw is evaluating a host of alternatives.

At the end of last year, the council also formed a Business Development Group with full-time staff to find end uses, both inside and outside of the flooring industry, for recycled carpet and other materials. Parent company Berkshire Hathaway includes a number of companies, such as paint company Benjamin Moore, that might be able to incorporate carpet waste into their products. Eventually the company believes the effort could become a whole new business unit for Shaw.

Shaw’s well known Green Edge Program since 2006 has processed 200 million pounds of nylon 6, as well as another 50 million pounds of other kinds of carpet, through its Evergreen facility in Augusta, Georgia. Shaw wants to stay aggressive in carpet reclamation and recycling, partly because it believes the industry could eventually invite unwanted regulation. However, as much carpet as Shaw has recovered, it’s still just a small part of the carpet waste stream. The company this year joined the Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise program, to measure its post industrial waste and find ways to reduce the amount. Right now, carpet scraps from manufacturing, along with waste wood, are used to generate energy.

The firm is building a second carpet-to-energy facility in Dalton that will use an estimated 76 million pounds of post consumer carpet from its recycling program. The facility, called Re2E will also support Shaw’s goal of 10% alternative energy sources by 2017 and the company’s waste reduction objectives, as well as the Carpet America Recovery Effort’s existing landfill diversion goal of 40%. It is projected to produce 50,000 pounds of steam per hour, or more than 90% of the plant’s demand. It will also generate electricity for Shaw, an amount that could power 300 homes.

Shaw is also partnering with PET resin and polyester staple fiber producer DAK Americas LLC to create a new joint venture company, Clear Path Recycling LLC, to produce recycled PET from post consumer plastic bottles. Shaw, the majority partner, will use the material as a feedstock to enhance the value and sustainability of its individual offerings. The facility will be North America’s largest, recycling more than 280 million pounds—or about five billion PET bottles. The plant, in Fayetteville, North Carolina at a DAK America’s site, should become operational in the first quarter of 2010. The first phase will process about 160 million pounds. The second phase, planned for completion in 2012, will bring the capacity to 280 million pounds.

Also this year, Shaw enrolled as an early adopter in the Green Standard Environmental Product Declaration System. The first step is a lifecycle assessment. The program is widely seen as the the best way to communicate environmental impacts with transparency and credibility.

Several Shaw products were also certified under Sustainable Carpet Standard NSF 140, including Ultraloc Pattern, Teklok, EcoLogix and EcoWorx commercial product systems.

Late last year, for the fourth consecutive year, the California Integrated Waste Management Board acknowledged Shaw through its Waste Reduction Awards. The four Shaw facilities in California that service the Tuftex and Patcraft Designweave brands received the WRAP designation.

Shaw supplied both hardwood and carpet for the Good Housekeeping Green House in Harlem last fall. It has also supplied the tile, carpet and hardwood for the 2009 HGTV Green Home in Tradition, Florida.

Interface Inc., which includes InterfaceFlor based in LaGrange, Georgia, and Bentley Prince Street, based in City of Industry, California, provides technologies that benefit both companies, although each business develops its own measures of sustainability. Overall, the company was again ranked number one in the GlobeScan Survey of Sustainability Experts for 2008,­a global poll that asks sustainability experts to name companies that merit attention for their commitment to sustainability. 

Interface Inc.’s ReEntry program has diverted 175 million pounds of material from landfills since 1995, with cost savings totaling $405 million. Last year, 43 million pounds were diverted. ReEntry downcycles some nylon into other products such as molded car parts and pad underlay. It also provides fiber to Aquafil and Universal Fibers, which turn it into new face fiber.

In addition, in 2008, the firm derived 28% of its energy from renewable sources—27% from green electricity and 1% from landfill gas. Total energy use is down 44% since 1996 at its manufacturing facilities. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are down 71% from 1996. Its absolute emissions have been reduced by 34% as a result of energy efficiency and direct purchases of renewable energy and further offset by 37% as a result of company owned GHG projects. Water intake per production unit is down 38% in broadloom carpet facilities to 15 gallons per yard and down 74% in modular carpet facilities to half a gallon per yard.

The Interface Environmental Foundation awarded 32 grants totaling $16,000 to school programs aimed at increasing environmental awareness. Last year 957 Interface Inc. employees also took part in the Cool Co2mmute program. This voluntary program measures and neutralizes the impact of employee commuting through purchase and the retirement of credible carbon offsets.

InterfaceFlor, the leading manufacturer of modular carpet, earlier this year became the first North American carpet manufacturer to receive a third-party verified Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for its Convert products, which are manufactured with post consumer type 6,6 nylon. It also registered the declaration in The Green Standard EPD System, the first ISO-compliant EPD System in North America. The move will open up its EPD to greater transparency, and set a standard for how product manufacturers should communicate and disclose information about their products.

Interface Inc. last year also became a founding member of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Climate Neutral Network, an online community established to help share knowledge and learning on GHG reduction and carbon neutrality.

Bentley Prince Street became the first North American carpet producer to have a broadloom product receive a third party verified Environmental Product Declaration. The firm based its EPD on its 24 ounce solution dyed products using Antron Lumena type 6,6 nylon and standard High PerformancePC broadloom backing, which contains post consumer recycled content. Metrics reported include an analysis of renewable versus non-renewable energy use, material resources, water consumption and waste at each stage of the product’s life.

The company has just begun a process to take recycled backing from broadloom carpet and repurpose it into new latex backing. BPS has had post consumer content in its backing for a while, but now it will actually be able to use the old backing as well, The firm found a new vendor that could use the repurposed backing in its latex formulation. This new process, now standard on all broadloom products, enabled the firm to have its broadloom products attain platinum certification in the NSF 140 carpet standard. In addition, all of its standard carpet tile products, as well as all broadloom products using the optional Prestige PlusRC backing, were certified at the gold level. The standard broadloom products all have at least 10% post consumer content and meet the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus requirements, among others.

The firm has also received a couple of awards recently. U.S. General Services Administration chose Bentley Prince Street as a recipient of its 2008 Evergreen Award, recognizing its efforts in recycling, affirmative procurement and waste reduction. And the California Integrated Waste Management Board chose the firm as the recipient of the 2008 CalRecycle Sustainable Business Award. It honors a business that has taken extraordinary measures to reduce waste by cutting the amount of trash it produces, conserving resources and reducing waste disposal in landfills.

All Bentley Prince Street products are carbon neutral, so customers don’t have to worry about paying more for a greener product. The firm provided a climate neutral carpet for the 2009 Green Inaugural Ball held on January 19 to celebrate the presidential inauguration and America’s green economy.

Mohawk Industries was a major beneficiary of the Federal Trade Commission ruling that allows DuPont’s Sorona fiber to be classified as triexta, rather than regular polyester. Mohawk’s Smartstrand carpet uses the fiber in residential carpet and it is the only firm licensed to use it in residential products. Mohawk and DuPont lobbied hard for the change because they believe the carpet performs much better than polyester. It should also give them some marketing advantages. Triexta is composed of 37% bio-based agricultural feedstock.

In January, the firm’s Mohawk, Columbia and Century engineered hardwood brands earned the stringent Phase 2 certification from the California Air Resources Board for their low emissions. The firm believes it was the first in the industry to earn both Phase 1 and Phase 2 certifications.

Last fall at the Greenbuild 2008 conference, Mohawk unveiled its LEED Plus Calculator, which uses the EcoScorecard software on its website to give designers and other specifiers instant access to information about the sustainability of its products as it relates to the LEED program and other environmental ratings.

The Mohawk Group’s Chicago showroom was certified gold in the LEED-Commercial Interiors category from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Mohawk showroom is one of few to win the recognition. It was designed by Ken Wilson of Envision Design, who also designed USGBC’s new office, which was certified platinum in the same category. That project also used Lees Carpet from the Mohawk Group.

Mohawk was also named Recycler of the Year by the Carpet America Recovery Effort for its GreenWorks Post Consumer Recycling Center, which converts a variety of post consumer carpet, including nylon 6, nylon 6,6, polypropylene and other fibers into engineered resins that can be used in a broad range of valuable products. The firm said that many customers have tested and approved the resins for a variety of products, a time consuming process that has kept the program from ramping up. In addition, the auto industry is one of the largest users of these kinds of products and the bankruptcies of both Chrysler and General Motors have complicated the market because the auto industry uses about 55% of all engineered plastics. Nevertheless, Mohawk is enthusiastic about the potential of the program as sales have started to pick up. The center also won a GPEC 2009 Recycling Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers for its recycling of plastics.

Finally, several Mohawk carpet platforms have received NSF 140 certification for sustainability. About half of platforms have been certified platinum, and the rest will be certified gold.

Beaulieu, currently the second biggest user of recycled plastic drink bottles in the carpet industry behind Mohawk, with an annual consumption of about 40 million pounds, recently expanded its Adairsville, Georgia facility, where it makes its Nexterra backed commercial carpet tile. Nexterra contains 85% post consumer content, incorporating ground glass from windshields and light bulbs, among other sources, and PET from plastic drink bottles, the latter of which has roughly a 92% energy savings compared to using virgin materials. This product was also the first in the industry to be certified under the industry NSF 140 standard, achieving platinum status last summer. It also uses no water in the manufacturing process. Nexterra can also be recycled as the fiber can be dissolved away from the backing. The product has been in the market for four years and the firm said it has had steady, consistent growth.

Beaulieu Commercial manufactures Bolyu Contract, Cambridge Commercial Carpets and Aqua Hospitality Carpets. All of its commercial products contain some post consumer recycled content.

Beaulieu has also just launched a filament (BCF) fiber for its broadloom products, which contains up to 25% post consumer PET content.

Another product that Beaulieu is excited about is its Puralex fresh air additive that is part of its Nexterra products. Carpet with this product has been a big seller for places like college dormitories. The product itself is odorless and is bonded to the carpet fiber so that it never comes off. Keeping a carpet odor free is one way to keep it in use longer.

Beaulieu Commercial purchases green power and is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership. The company is purchasing more than nine million kilowatt-hours of green power annually, enough to meet all of the organization’s purchased electricity use across its operations. Green-e certified renewable energy certificates are purchased from Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Switch program and Sterling Planet.

Milliken Carpet is part of the larger Millken & Company, which makes apparel fabrics, auto parts and a variety of chemicals, and has been certified a carbon negative company since 2005 by Leonardo Academy. In addition, Milliken Carpet has reduced emissions 22% in the last six years and all of its products have been certified carbon neutral. The certification was achieved without purchasing any carbon offsets. The firm has a certified forest management program covering its 150,000 acres of forest, with about 30,000 acres under production in a way that meets Forest Stewardship Council requirements. In addition, it is using electricity from its hydroelectric plants. The firm now sequesters about 15 times more carbon than it emits. In the last ten years it has reduced energy and water consumption by 50% and it has committed itself to reducing them by a minimum 5% per year for the next five years.

Milliken has also partnered with the city of LaGrange, Georgia, where it is headquartered, and uses 83% of all the methane produced by the city landfill. That offsets roughly 30% of its annual natural gas requirement. It’s also working with Georgia Tech and Georgia Power to investigate the use of electricity produced by tidal movements.

Since 1999, Milliken has pledged that it will not send any carpet to a landfill. About 75% of the carpet tile it takes up, usually at no expense to the customer, is reused by charitable organizations, schools and hospitals. Broadloom is recycled, with about 3% used to generate energy, replacing coal in cement kilns.

Emblematic of Tandus’s commitment to sustainability is the fact that last June CEO Glenn Hussman passed the exam to become a LEED accredited professional, perhaps the only chief executive in the flooring business to go through the process. He’s trying to encourage an environment in which Tandus employees function as sustainability consultants to their customers, and, increasingly Tandus employees are becoming LEED certified.

Tandus, which sells carpet tile and broadloom under the C&A, Crossley and Monterey brands, has one of the largest reclamation programs in the industry. Last year the firm passed the 150 million pound mark in total diversion weight. Tandus will take any vinyl backed carpet from any manufacturer and put it back into the same kind of product in a fairly low energy process. Continual improvement of this closed loop process is the cornerstone of Tandus’ sustainability efforts.

In the last year, Tandus has increased the recycled content of its ER3backed tile products, bumping total recycled content up to 50%. And later this year it will introduce a new tile line with ethos backing, produced from post industrial and post consumer polyvinyl butyrate (PVB) that otherwise would be going to landfills. The firm already uses ethos for its six foot goods program. Tandus has invested a significant amount of money in a new production line.

Tandus is also working to increase the recycled content of the nylon fiber it produces, called Type 6 Dynex. It is putting recycled yarn in the interior of the fiber itself in what it calls a sheath and core extrusion technology. This fiber is used in many of the firm’s products, which will significantly increase the overall used of recycled content.

Over the last year, Tandus has been working with agricultural products firm Cargill on adding soy based content to its broadloom backing.

Tandus also now offers a carbon neutral purchasing option for all its products, through offsets purchased through It’s also working to reduce its energy footprint by recycling grease from local restaurants as a fuel for its commercial boiler. About 11% of the energy the firm uses comes from renewable sources.

Earlier this year, Tandus’s environmental management system achieved ISO 14001 certification.

J+J/Invision, the family owned firm, likes to be at the cutting edge. For example, it was the first firm to use the EcoScorecard software on its website to compute how its products can contribute to LEED and other green standards. In addition, it is also one of the original firms to use latex produced by Dow’s Lomax technology in its backings.

Early this summer the firm had three of its backings certified under NSF 140. Its Echo backing received platinum certification while its Premiere and Titan backings were both certified gold.

J+J’s R4 (Return, Reuse, Recycle, Reduce) program continues to grow. One of its unusual features is that the firm will cover the shipping costs for its clients to send back competitors’ samples, as well as its own. Many of its own samples are reused, but out of date samples, along with competitors’ samples, are recycled through a local charitable organization. The firm also takes back architectural folders.

J+J has also set a goal of sending no trash from its campus to the landfill, everything from carpet scraps to office paper. In addition, it has established a recycling program for its more than 800 employees, many of whom live outside Dalton and have no easy access to recycling services. Employees can bring their materials from home to be recycled.

Commercial carpet specialist Constantine says that all of its products are recyclable and it pledges that none of its carpet will end up in a landfill—Constantine will absorb the cost to take it away. Its CON-tinuum Reclamation program runs through Invista and Covanta, where the old Constantine carpet is taken. Constantine will also help cover the cost of taking away a competitor’s carpet. The program hasn’t really been tested yet because Constantine is a relatively new company and not much of its carpet has been removed yet.

Late last year, US Floors, formerly known as Natural Cork, became the first U.S. manufacturer to produce both cork and bamboo floors with the opening of its Dalton, Georgia manufacturing facility. In addition, the facility contains a private solar electrical generation system. The rooftop now has 40 photovoltaic panels and plans are to expand to 180, which could generate 94 kilowatts of electricity, a significant portion of the firm’s electricity needs. The company is also seeking LEED certification for its corporate office.

US Floors also entered the contract business this year with the introduction of its Corboo, a cork-bamboo hybrid product, at NeoCon this year. Its products can help earn points in the LEED program for low emitting materials and rapidly renewable resources. The firm also has an FSC certified wide plank oak that it imports from Europe and finishes in Dalton.

Four company managers also earned LEED AP credentials, including Deborah Hardin, vice president of sales and marketing, Patty Ward, West Coast sales manager, Bruce Graye, Northeast sales manager, and Gary Keeble Jr., marketing manager.

Mannington, which offers flooring ranging from commercial carpet to sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tile, vinyl composition tile, wood, laminate and ceramic, has been making big strides toward sustainability over the last couple of years. Like the best green companies, the firm takes a broad and deep approach to sustainability, going beyond recycling and other high visibility programs to lower the firm’s overall environmental footprint. Last November, the firm’s two acre solar array, on the roof of its facilities in Salem, New Jersey, went live, generating 700 megawatts of power. The firm has also reduced water consumption in all its facilities—its operation in Calhoun, Georgia reduced consumption by 30% last year.

Mannington also offers educational programs like Going Green, started in Salem and now also being offered in Calhoun, that teaches K-12 kids about sustainable practices.

In June, Mannington launched its VCT reclamation program, recapturing used VCT from a 500 mile radius of the Salem facility and channeling it back into its Premium Tile lines for a 25% post consumer content. This year the firm should reclaim 19 million pounds, and that’s just the beginning. Next year will see far higher reclamation volume, and the firm anticipates eventually offering post consumer content in its sheet vinyl and other products. 

The firm also offers post consumer recycled content on its commercial carpet, accounting for 10% of the product’s total weight, and it also uses recycled carpet in the backing of Relay RE, a resilient sheet product, for 20% post consumer content.

Hardwood firm Mullican introduced its first FSC certified product at Surfaces this year called Green Haven. It’s a 3/4” solid made of domestic species and it carries the FSC Pure certification, meaning each board has met the qualifications. It’s being offered in red and white oak, maple and hickory. Next year the firm plans to offer an engineered version of the line. The product is being rolled out throughout this year, as its distributors become chain of custody certified.

Mullican is also a pilot company in the National Wood Flooring Association’s Responsible Procurement Program and is being certified for the sustainable sourcing of its lumber.

Mullican finds a use for every bit of scrap and sawdust it produces in its manufacturing process. Some is used for its own energy production but most is sold to makers of products like particle board and decking.

Tile maker Crossville has made a significant capital investment in a tile take back program, which is just getting underway, but has been under consideration for about ten years. The new service uses equipment from the mining industry to crush tile and turn it into powder, which is then incorporated into new tile. At the outset, Crossville is using the process to deal with its own imperfect fired tile, about 4 million pounds annually, that would previously have ended up in a landfill. However, the firm also plans to take old tile back from its customers and process it in the same fashion, as well as samples and broken tile from new installations. The additional recycled content will be used to manufacture both new tile lines as well as existing lines. One of the first products from the company’s new 182 metric ton press will use a substantial amount of the powder generated in this process.

Dow’s Lomax technology debuted a year ago and so far five carpet firms are using latex produced by the technology. Lomax, which uses methane gas from decomposing trash at the Dalton, Georgia landfill to fuel boilers, is producing latex for Atlas, Blue Ridge, J+J/Invision and Masland on the commercial side, and Mohawk on the residential side. The system replaces 90% of the fossil fuel normally used to make the backing and improves the carbon footprint of carpet by about 25%.

Burlington, New Jersey based Wood Flooring International, part of Brandywine International Hardwoods, provides FSC certified flooring at no additional cost to its customers. It has developed the first standard line of engineered woods, containing 12 SKUs, in which every product carries the certification. Prices start at entry level and cover nearly the whole range of price points. It also has 12 more upper end SKUs, and another eight miscellaneous SKUs that are FSC certified. It was able to offer the value products by using a thinner face veneer. Some of the veneers are sourced in the U.S. but many include species like Caribbean Rosewood from Guatemala. The firm has no U.S. manufacturing, and most of the products are made in Central and South America.

Resilient maker Amtico is taking energy saving measures this year. The firm is using 50% less energy for lighting at its Conyers, Georgia plant after changing from metal halide bulbs to fluorescent. It will make a similar switch at its Madison, Georgia plant later this year, and energy savings should be comparable. In addition, the Madison plant has cut about 30% of its process cooling requirements by redesigning the PVC line. Amtico has also cut its landfill waste by 18% over the last year.

Amtico has two vinyl lines, Spacia and Amtico, as well as a thermoplastic polyolefin called Stratica. The firm uses all of its post industrial waste in the backing layers for these products. All of these products can be recycled, and they’re all FloorScore certified for low emissions.

Roppe and Flexco, sister companies and competitors under parent Roppe Holding Co., specialize in rubber and vinyl products. For the most part, they have separate manufacturing facilities and separate product lines.

Roppe, based in Ohio, has rolled out its Impact rubber recycling program. The company has figured out how to recycle rubber that still has adhesive on it, which has been a barrier to recycling, and has developed a proprietary process. The recycled materials will be used to create other products such as municipal landscaping mulches and playground surfacing. The program will also recycle samples.

Both Roppe and Flexco have begun using the EcoScorecard system on their websites. EcoEffects is the name given to sustainable products within Roppe’s product line, while Flexco uses the brand EnviroFlex. Flexco reports that 95% of its product line carries the EnviroFlex label.

Roppe is also a participating member in the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, which promotes a healthy, resource efficient learning environment.

Among Roppe’s vinyl products is SafeTCork, a solid vinyl blended with 10% cork. All of its vinyl products contain at least 10% post industrial content.

Alabama based Flexco’s products also contain 10% post industrial content. It has also started using soybean oil to replace plasticizer in its binder content, now up to 10% of the overall product from the original 2%.

Centiva, a unique vinyl producer known for its stunning designs and use of material, has also made great inroads in its sustainability programs. The firm has adjusted workflow patterns, replaced lighting, replaced skylights to reduce energy use, installed motion sensor systems, and invested in equipment like new boiler systems, all of which have helped reduce the firm’s environmental footprint.

In addition, Centiva is currently the only firm to offer, in addition to post industrial content, quantifiable levels of post consumer content in all its products. The firm has three lines: all products in the Event line have 28% post industrial content and 4% post consumer content; Contour products offer 26% post industrial content and 4% post consumer content; and the Victory line offers 26% post industrial and 4% post consumer content on its heterogeneous tile, with the exception of Stria, and 8% post industrial on its tile without backing. Stria, introduced earlier this year, has 51% total recycled content, 46.5 % post industrial and 4.5% post consumer. The firm anticipates steadily raising those recycled content numbers over time.

Tarkett, which makes a range of commercial vinyl and rubber products—all the rubber is made by the Johnsonite brand—is another firm with a comprehensive and growing green program. The firm’s program, called Balanced Choice, covers four key areas: resource stewardship, which includes material and energy use; reduce, reuse and recycle; better materials; and people friendly spaces.

In terms of resource stewardship, Tarkett’s goal is to have all of its facilities ISO 14001 certified by 2010—its European facilities have already completed that process—and condensed environmental fact sheets will be available for each facility. When it comes to reduce, reuse, recycle, examples include Johnsonite’s Replace reusable wallbase, sample take-back programs at Johnsonite and Azrock, and Azrock’s VCT reclamation and reuse program. Johnsonite is also working on a reclamation and recycling program for its rubber flooring, and the firm will be announcing exactly how that will work in the next few months—because rubber is a thermoset, as opposed to a thermoplastic like vinyl, it cannot be remade into the same type of flooring.

In terms of better materials, the firm’s offering includes linoleum, which is entirely bio-based, except for its surface finish, and IQ, a compound for vinyl sheet and tile that does not require stripping or waxing for the life of the product, thereby greatly reducing the environmental impact accrued through maintenance and all the associated chemicals, water use and energy consumption. People friendly spaces relates to indoor air quality ensured through FloorScore certification, along with elements like acoustics, comfort, and reduction of cleaning products.

France’s Gerflor produces a broad range of commercial vinyl flooring in the U.S., all produced in European ISO 14001 and 9001 certified facilities, with company wide processes like recycling all waste and operating closed loop water systems. 

The firm is also a founding member of Germany’s AgPR PVC reclamation operation. It sends waste to AgPR and also reuses reclaimed Gerflor flooring in its homogeneous sheet flooring for a maximum of 10% post consumer content. The firm anticipates that number rising steadily over the years as supply grows. Post consumer content also goes into the firm’s heterogeneous flooring. Gerflor’s Taralay heterogeneous flooring and some of its homogeneous lines have enhanced environmental profiles due to no wax treatments for life.

LG Hausys Floors, headquartered in South Korea, offers both post consumer and post industrial recycled content in its heterogeneous sheet flooring and luxury vinyl tile. Post consumer recycled content from reclaimed vinyl flooring goes as high as 16%—and higher content than that can’t be found in the U.S. The recycled content is reclaimed in South Korea, where spot glued installations make reclamation easier to achieve.

Though LG is among the world’s largest manufacturers of PVC, the firm is also looking at alternative chemistries, like bio resins, to meet demand for PVC free alternatives.

Armstrong, the biggest vinyl producer in the U.S., has a broad linoleum offering, and it also offers a PVC free alternative to vinyl composition tile, replacing the 14% vinyl content of traditional VCT with a polyester compound that includes corn polymers. The bio-based content is 2% of the total product weight. Its corporate headquarters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was the first building outside of California to attain a platinum LEED EB rating.

Armstrong is also the nation’s biggest hardwood manufacturer—it sells laminates, too—and its Center, Texas hardwood facility was recently FSC certified, and it offers a large number of FSC certified engineered hardwoods by special order.

Universal Textile Technologies manufactures BioCel and EnviroCel carpet backing, made from domestically grown soybeans, to replace much of the petroleum based polyols found in regular polyurethane backing. They also contain Celceram, a byproduct of coal combustion in power plants, which UTT says improves the dimensional stability and performance of carpets. Both EnviroCel and BioCel incorporate post consumer recycled PET plastic from soft drink and water bottles to create a 100% post consumer secondary backing. They also contain rapidly renewable materials, range from 55% to 85% green by weight, and contribute to LEED credits. BioCel is a high-traffic carpet backing designed for commercial environments, such as convention centers. EnviroCel is targeted at hospitality, healthcare, retail and high end residential settings. UTT says the backings prolong a carpet’s life and appearance and reduce replacement, maintenance and downtime costs. 

Earlier this year Model Hardwood introduced the E Series, featuring FSC certified solid hardwood flooring. It’s available in four colors. This summer the firm is planning to roll out an engineered version as well. The firm also uses a different method of cutting the wood that uses far more of the tree in the actual flooring. So far the new line is accounting for about 10% of sales. 


The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), launched in 2002 to foster the development of a carpet reclamation infrastructure, reported total carpet diversion in 2008 of 292.4 million pounds, of which 243.4 million pounds were recycled--the balance was fired in cement kilns or used as waste to energy. Though the diversion rate was down 0.8% from 2007 and the recycling rate was down 11.5%, and though 2008 was the first year to see these rates drop, the results are nevertheless good news.

Last summer the biggest fear was that too many entrepreneurs would be forced to shut their doors, threatening the integrity of the reclamation infrastructure, and not only did that not happen but numbers actually grew from 56 collectors scattered across the nation to 58. The issue that has made conditions so difficult has been demand for reclaimed material. As things stand now, carpet producers by themselves cannot reuse anywhere near how much material is being collected and processed, even when you add in major recycled carpet pad producers like LA Fibers.

Furthermore, over the last year oil prices have plunged, which has reduced the cost of virgin and post industrial content, thereby impacting demand outside of the carpet industry for post consumer content as an alternative.

For the reclamation industry to succeed and flourish, the development of new outlets is essential, and that's exactly what CARE has been focusing on. The organization has been working hard to engage the plastics industry to develop channels for reclaimed carpet components. The automotive industry already uses a lot of plastic reclaimed from carpet for interior components, but with automotive sales tanking, demand has been down.

CARE has launched an aggressive program to learn more about the needs of the plastics industry and how post consumer carpet content can help fulfill those needs. The biggest barrier is purity. Of the three raw material streams for the plastics industry--virgin material, post industrial material and post consumer material--post consumer is at the biggest disadvantage because of purity issues. So the challenge is to develop cost efficient processing technologies to give plastics producers the purity levels they require at a competitive price--and the other challenge is to raise awareness among plastics manufacturers of the availability and utility of these waste streams.

In all likelihood, the relationship will evolve, starting with using waste stream from carpet for plastics that can handle higher levels of impurities, and as reclamation technologies develop and stronger partnerships emerge, these waste streams will be able to feed a growing range of plastic products with more rigorous specifications.

This last year has seen a number of changes at CARE, including a new executive director, Georgina Sikorski, who used to represent Invista on the CARE board, and a shift from a sponsorship to a membership organization. The shift enables CARE to reach out to a much wider base, including carpet retail groups, suppliers, independent dealers and students. CARE's website,, lists the membership rates for all the different entities.

One of the biggest challenges this year and going forward is to get sustainable funding for the organization to help members be more successful in their reclamation businesses. Many collectors would like to diversify with value added services like shredding levels. How carpet manufacturers engineer their products for reclamation also plays a big role in purity levels.

This year CARE named Mohawk its Recycler of the Year, and Universal Fibers' Brendan McSheehy was named Person of the Year. The EPA award for Innovation in Recycling went to Shaw and LA Fibers.


DuPont made perhaps the biggest splash in fiber this year as its PTT fiber, sold under the Sorona brand name, was reclassified in March by the Federal Trade Commission as triexta. Previously it had been classified as polyester. Triexta, which is used by Mohawk in its Smartstrand residential carpet, contains 37% bio based material from corn, and its performance characteristics are superior to polyester, which was the basis for the reclassification.

While Mohawk has an exclusive agreement with DuPont for Sorona's use in the residential market, no such deal exists on the commercial side, so DuPont is now working on making triexta available to the commercial market. Triexta's performance characteristics make it far more suitable for commercial carpet than polyester and other non-nylon fibers.

Invista's Antron Bio Legacy nylon is the first dyeable carpet fiber with bio-based content designed specifically for commercial market applications. It contains 10% bio-based material derived from the castor bean, a high yielding and renewable resource that is harvested annually. In addition, more than 50 colors of Antron Lumena solution dyed nylon have been third party certified to contain 25% combined post industrial and post consumer recycled content. The firm says it performs as well as other Lumena solution dyed products and carries the same warranty. Invista also offers Lumena with 90% post industrial content on a special order basis. Still another product, Antron Legacy nylon, contains 90% post industrial content, also available on a special order basis. It's a white, dyeable fiber.

Invista also has an active reclamation program, which has reclaimed over 65 million pounds of used carpet. Invista guarantees that its customers' used carpet will never go to a landfill, regardless of the fiber type. Some fiber is used to make new carpet, some to make other kinds of products, and a small amount is used for energy generation.

Invista also achieved LEED Gold certification for Commercial Interiors for the Antron Studio showroom in Chicago's Merchandise Mart. Last year at Greenbuild, Invista exhibited in a "non booth," using locally recycled carpet, among other items.

Universal Fibers, which developed the first process to use post consumer nylon 6,6 in new fiber, has a program called EarthSmart Technology that it uses as an umbrella to promote an attitude of environmental and social concern by the company and its employees while maximizing manufacturing processes and equipment, developing waste-saving systems, promoting facility conservation, and developing recycled and recyclable product.

The post consumer fiber, called ReFresh, won an Innovative Green Design Award from New York House magazine. Universal was one of the first companies to include post industrial content in its fiber in the early 1990s.

ReFresh is being used by InterfaceFlor in its Convert tile products, which recently received a third-party verified Environmental Product Declaration. The fiber is made containing all colorants and performance additives. There are no effluent streams from traditional range or beck dyeing, and all manufacturing waste is recovered and reused.

Aquafil has developed Econyl Next solution dyed nylon 6, which contains 10% post consumer carpet content. Nylon 6 face fiber is separated from the backing, remelted and extruded. The firm is working to make the content even higher, but the challenge is to get the recycled fiber pure enough.

The firm also has Econyl 75, which is composed of 70% post industrial content and 5% non carpet post consumer content. The strength and lifecycle are comparable to yarn made with 100% virgin materials. Aquafil is working toward the goal of creating an Econyl with 100% recycled content by the end of 2010.

Aquafil is a zero waste company, sending its post industrial fiber waste to sister firm Aquafil Technopolymers, where it's used in manufactured plastics.

The firm also has a process for extracting lactam out of water used in manufacturing and using it in new products. Consequently, Aquafil says all its products have 15% recycled content, just from this process. Aquafil also generates all its electricity using natural gas powered turbines. The generator-produced heat feeds boiling units for steam and hot fueled used in fiber processes.


The U.S. Green building Council's LEED rating systems have been updated this year to make them more streamlined and more consistent, and to better address environmental priorities. One development has been the consolidation and alignment of all credits and prerequisites for LEED commercial and institutional rating systems so that they are consistent across all LEED 2009 rating systems. Another major development is a weighting of credits to reflect the most pressing environmental concerns--energy efficiency and CO2 reductions. This is achieved by evaluating credits against 13 key environmental impact categories, including climate change, indoor environmental quality, resource depletion and water use.

Also, regional environmental challenges have been addressed through regional priority credits that focus on the most urgent environmental issues in different parts of the country. For instance, in rural Michigan, preservation of prime agricultural land is given special consideration, as is minimizing the amount and improving the quality of stormwater into the Great Lakes, while urban Florida gives special weight to reuse of existing building stock, decreased reliance on insufficient municipal wastewater plants, and use of abundant local sunshine.

LEED Online has been redesigned to be scalable and more robust, with improved design, a better user interface, and better communication between project teams and certifying bodies. In addition, a range of new features help project teams navigate through the entire certification review process and enhance the functionality of submittal documentation and certification templates. According to Forbo's Tim Cole, currently chair elect of the USGBC's board of directors--he'll become chairman in January--LEED Online is a whole new ballgame and will make the process much more efficient.

Another welcome efficiency in the LEED system incorporates new credits through a process that enables the piloting of credits rather than piloting new versions of the relevant rating systems.

Also, the indoor air quality credit (IEQ 4.3) has been redefined from Low Emitting Materials--Carpet Systems to Low Emitting Materials--Flooring Systems. Before, the system could be easily abused by simply using hard surface flooring and installing a small piece of carpet that met indoor air quality standards in a corner or a closet. Now the bar has been raised for all flooring and the loophole closed. One remaining inefficiency is that all hard surface flooring requires indoor air quality certification, including ceramic, even though it's physically impossible for ceramic to emit anything at all.

Copyright 2009 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Mohawk Industries, Carpet and Rug Institute, LG Hausys, Beaulieu International Group, Interface, Tuftex, Lumber Liquidators, Tarkett, The Dixie Group, Crossville, Mannington Mills, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Masland Carpets & Rugs, Roppe, Armstrong Flooring