Find a Second Life for
Is that wallcovering in your lobby, classrooms or hotel suites ready to get an update? Before you start ripping down tired designs, set up a recycling stream to capture this waste. It takes no more coordination than dedicating a bin
and instructing your crew to divert the material. Even better,
manufacturers are eager to take back this commodity at no
cost to you.
Waste or Resource
There’s more to recycling than collecting cardboard and
aluminum cans on a weekly basis. Whether embarking on a
minor refresh or a complete renovation, facility managers should
keep their eyes open for one-time opportunities to salvage items.
Think of wallcoverings as a cousin to carpet – even though the
product will likely ugly out before it wears out, there’s no reason
to send this bulky material to the landfill when others can take it
off your hands.
“Beyond being good municipal citizens, building owners
should recycle wallcoverings to avoid construction waste and
the associated costs from dumpster rentals, hauling and
contractor services,” explains Beth Rich, Marketing Director for
Wallcoverings made from vinyl and fabrics, particularly
textiles with polyesters, are good candidates for recycling.
"Most commercial vinyls can be saved because they come
down in one piece and are easy to separate from the sheet
rock,” notes Sean Samet, Executive Director of the Wallcoverings
Association. “It may seem like a small amount, but any scraps
left over from an installation job can also be diverted.”
Work with your general contractor, installer or the manufac-
turer to coordinate recycling. The Second-Look program offered
by Versa Wallcoverings accepts any previously used vinyl wall-
coverings, says Rich. Once a sample has been tested to rule out
any chemicals or elements such as heavy metals that are consid-
ered contaminants, FMs are provided with a container to sepa-
rate materials. The free program has recycled 6. 5 million pounds
of wallcoverings since 2007.
It’s also a closed loop option, ensuring that reclaimed materials are turned into new wallcoverings: “Everyone wants products
with recycled content, but manufacturers need to get the material back in order to increase that percentage in the first place,”
Recycling vinyl is also eco-friendly because it doesn’t degrade
when it’s reformed into new products, making its performance
and durability on par with virgin materials, Samet adds.
Plan Ahead for Success
One of the key drivers of sustainability is to change our
mindset about our definition of waste and think instead about
resource recovery. It’s routine to just throw away products we
no longer have a use for rather than finding a partner who sees
the potential, says Samet. But with wallcoverings, as with many
other materials that are recyclable, the effort to minimize your
landfill contributions is no more of a hassle than having a space
for a dedicated dumpster and keeping materials dry.
“There’s a perception that it’s difficult and costly to recycle
wallcoverings when the opposite is true. The problem is that it’s
usually an afterthought rather than something that’s part of the
project scope,” Rich clarifies. “You need to coordinate this from
the onset with the construction or renovation company.”
Wallcoverings can generally be removed without any problems if they were installed properly.
“It’s important to follow the specifications for wallcoverings
because they’re meant to be taken down in one piece without
damaging the wall,” notes Samet. “You might run into trouble
if the wrong adhesive or covering was used, the wallcovering
was installed too quickly without priming or preparing the surface, or it was put over another surface already in place.”
Barring these complications, recycling old wallcoverings
should be a simple process. Be sure to ask for the final weight
of collected materials. You can apply the data to several building
certifications or simply make your occupants aware that you’re
following through with your green goals.
Jennie Morton email@example.com is Senior Editor of