May 12/19, 2014; Volume 27/Number 27
By Louis Iannaco
One does not have to watch the news to know the planet continues to grow more environmentally conscious each day. With programs and initiatives designed to make products and processes increasingly sustainable, the flooring industry has been a major force in leading this Earth-friendly movement.
FCNews recently checked in with several carpet/fiber producers to discover the latest happenings involving their environmentally friendly efforts.
The story at Aquafil is the company’s Econyl Regeneration Process, a six-step method that turns waste into first-grade nylon. The first step of the Regeneration Process is the Econyl Reclaiming Program, established by the company to recover nylon 6 waste. Throughout the world, Econyl reclaim managers are expanding the waste collection network, which currently includes the U.S., Egypt, Greece, Pakistan, Thailand, Norway and Turkey, noted Franco Rossi, president of Aquafil USA.
Nylon waste is collected and sent to the Econyl waste collection/treatment center in Ajdovšina, Slovenia. Between 2011 and 2013, Aquafil reclaimed nearly 30,000 tons of pre- and post-consumer waste globally. “In 2014, Econyl products will contain at least 50% of post-consumer waste,” Rossi said. “Our aim is to gradually increase this percentage in order to ultimately produce Econyl polyamide from 100% post-consumer waste.”
Regarding commercialization into yarns, he noted, Aquafil produces two types of products from Econyl caprolactam: BCF yarns for synthetic carpet flooring and NTF yarns for textiles. “We market these products to our customers who produce goods for their final markets,” Rossi said. According to the company, its aim is to “rewrite the rules for producing manmade fibers. Our goal is to manufacture products that are not only entirely made of regenerated material, but are fully regenerable,” the Econyl website states.
“In June 2013, Beaulieu Group began an initiative to become landfill free in its manufacturing and administrative facilities by the end of 2015,” said Beth Randolph, director, risk management. By the end of 2013, the company had achieved an overall 30% reduction in trash to landfills.
Some of Beaulieu’s environmental initiatives include identifying and collecting all recyclables, creating new outlets for process waste products, employee involvement in green efforts and creating vendor “take back” programs.
In relation to its PET offerings, Rob Cushman, vice president, marketing, Beaulieu Commercial, said, “In the last year we’ve introduced Svelte, which has 70% post-consumer recycled PET content and we plan to introduce a companion product in June at NeoCon.
“Our tile factory has been further renewed as a certified NSF 140 Platinum operation, which allows us to market that on all of our carpet tile products,” he added. “In addition, we’ve recently completed a life cycle analysis of our full commercial business and are going to publish three EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) in June that will show we’re the leaders in the commercial carpet business with respect to the major measuring points established by the EPD Collaborative.”
Bentley Prince Street
“We’re coming off a great year in 2013,” said Ralph Grogan, president and CEO. “Our manufacturing facility was recertified to LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations Maintenance at the Gold level; certified product Cradle to Cradle Silver, and we reclaimed 1.9 million pounds of carpet through our reclamation program, Fulfill.”
The mill’s focus in 2014 is to continue improving practices and products. Since 1994, it has been measuring, evaluating and optimizing its manufacturing process and resource metrics at its California facility. “Reflecting back on 20 years of performance data/system improvements, we recognize our biggest impacts on the environment stem from the manufacturing process,” Grogan explained. “The life cycle approach to evaluating our sustainability performance has demonstrated 80% or more of environmental impacts are attributed to the production stage, so this is were we want to focus our attention.
“We’re taking steps to improve our material selection by using Antron Lumena type 6,6 nylon, a certified environmentally preferable fiber, as well as selecting vendors like Styron, which has a focus on renewable energy,” he added.
Bentley is also investigating how it can better utilize its resources. Last year it saw a drop in natural gas by 28% per unit of production and in water usage by 25% per unit of production. “Continuing to increase efficiency and identify ways to produce product more sustainably is going to go a long way in moving our products to the ideal state of zero-impact,” Grogan concluded.
Expansion and increasing capacity are key components of Invista’s goal to lighten its carbon footprint. “Going into 2014, we are expanding our capacity and capability of producing our Anton Lumena with TruBlend fiber technology, which includes solution-dyed products with both post-consumer as well as post-industrial content,” said Marc Ahrens, vice president, commercial, for the Antron brand.
The increase in capacity is taking place at Invista’s Camden, S.C., extrusion facility, part of an expansion project the company announced last year. “We’re thrilled about adding that capability to our offering this year and expect the construction process to be complete within the next 60 to 90 days,” Ahrens said. “This will allow commercialization of our products by late third quarter into the beginning of the fourth quarter. This more than doubles our capacity and therefore our offering of recycled content containing 6,6 fiber.”
According to Steve Hoffmann, director, sustainability, Invista Surfaces, the company is taking a life cycle-based approach in everything it does using a life cycle assessment (LCA). “We have a high quality, durable product that has an extended life. It actually lasts 75% longer, which reduces environmental impact. It’s important we emphasize we’re using a life cycle-based approach. We’ve brought software and processes in-house to drive the work we’re doing on the environmental and sustainability front.”
“At Mohawk, whether it’s the ingredients of our products, our innovative processes or the way we contribute to the communities in which we live and work, sustainability is integrated into everything we do,” noted Rochelle Routman, director, sustainability, Mohawk Flooring/Mohawk Group.
Mohawk’s key environmental initiatives for 2014 include SmartStrand fiber, made in part with Bio-PDO, the key Sorona ingredient, produced from rapidly renewable plant-based material. “As a result,” she said, “production of 7 square yards of 40-ounce SmartStrand Silk carpet saves enough energy and resources to equal one gallon of gas.”
Another green effort for the company is its Continuum process. Over 20 years ago, Mohawk began incorporating recycled plastic bottles into staple PET. As the market has moved predominantly to BCF, the mill is drawing on its 20-plus years of experience utilizing recycled content in PET to develop a cleaner, better fiber than ever.
“At Mohawk, our commitment to sustainability is an integral part of how we do business,” Routman concluded. “We believe in doing what’s right for our communities and customers. As the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, we’re dedicated to driving positive change in the industry.”
Shaw takes a holistic approach to sustainability, noted David Wilkerson, corporate director, sustainability and product stewardship. “We examine the ingredient materials, the impact of our supply chain, our use of natural resources and the ability to recover and recycle our products at the end of their useful life.”
For 2014, Shaw’s sustainable business strategy remains driving innovation into the business; protection of and efficient use of resources; involving its associates, customers, stakeholders and communities in its causes, and focusing on long-term financial success. “For customers,” Wilkerson said, “this is most visible in our commitment to Cradle to Cradle certification and reclamation and recycling efforts.” More than 60% of Shaw’s product sales are from Cradle to Cradle-certified products, including its Caress collection. “We’ve set a goal for all of our products to be designed to Cradle to Cradle protocols by 2030.”
Shaw also continues to be an industry leader in the reclamation and recycling of end-of-use carpet, having reclaimed more than 700 million pounds since 2006. With its portfolio of environmental solutions, it recycles carpet into carpet, as well as into other products and energy, “seeking the highest possible value for materials,” Wilkerson said. “Advancing these programs is among our key environmental initiatives for 2014.”
Additionally, in 2013 Shaw installed one of the Southeast’s largest commercial solar photovoltaic systems on the roof of its carpet tile manufacturing plant in Cartersville, Ga. The 1-megawatt installation, which became fully operational last October, will produce 1.4 million kilowatt hours of power annually. Feeding into the Georgia Power electric grid, Shaw will use this renewable energy to help power its manufacturing facility. This year will represent the first full year of the system’s operation.