The Sustainability of Recycling
When most flooring manufacturers talk about sustainability, they focus on what happens to their flooring at the end of its life. This means your flooring purchase becomes shaped in terms of what will happen to your carpet when you’ve finished using it, rather than the use you’ll get from it during its lifetime. Sustainability concerns become tied up with the percentage of recycled content in different flooring types, but this is only one aspect of sustainability. Here is The Sustainability of Recycling Explained:
CUSHION VS. HARDBACK
Some hard-backed carpet products are recyclable because they contain PVC. But the PVC in carpet tiles can cause problems during the life of the carpet, including a floor compatibility issue known as plasticizer migration.
Even when hard-backed products avoid using PVC, they can still cause problems – trapping moisture in the sub-floor, and creating damp conditions conducive to the growth of mold and mildew.
In contrast, open cell cushion backing avoids flooring compatibility problems as the tile backing is non-reactive (meaning there’s no risk of a chemical reaction with traces of adhesives left behind on your sub-floor). It’s also best for moisture management: moisture can transfer through the carpet tiles and evaporate away at the tile seams.
WHEN REUSE CAN BE BETTER THAN RECYCLING
Importantly, open cell cushion backing is able to prolong the life of your carpet tiles by 40 to 50% over hard-backed products.
A longer-lasting carpet means that reuse is a real possibility. Your carpet could be reused within your organization (like moving carpet tiles from an executive office into a meeting room), or by charitable organizations like PlanetReuse or Habitat for Humanity through manufacturers’ take-back programs.
Reusing carpet requires less energy than recycling old carpet, and could therefore be viewed as a more sustainable approach. It’s also true that a carpet with a high recycled content will naturally break down faster than one with a lower recycled content.
By prioritizing durability and performance over recycled content, your organization gets a carpet that lasts longer and has more end-of-life options than simply being recycled.
END OF USE
The other end-of-life option for your carpet is burn-for-energy. This is the end-of-life alternative to recycling (after you have reused your carpet as much as possible). Obviously, manufacturing or recycling carpet uses energy, so burn-for-energy means that 85% of the organic material in your carpet is cleanly converted into energy, which goes back into the power grid to power the manufacturing or recycling of new carpet.
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