Specifying carpet with recycled content is beneficial to the environment, corporate responsiblity and green certification programs. It’s the right thing to do,
but knowing how to make the best choice
is daunting. To ensure your choice is truly
sustainable, take the time to find out
what’s in your carpet selection, how it was
manufactured, and where it will end up
when you’re finished with it.
The Impact of Recycled Content
“Recycled content can be incorporated
into many parts of carpet,” says Philip
Ivey, Sustainability Leader of the Global
Floor Covering Division with Milliken. He
notes that both pre- and post-consumer
recycled content are frequently used in
carpets, including recycled mineral fillers
like ash, glass powder, or rock powder.
But content isn’t the only aspect that
should be sustainable. According to
Mikhail Davis, Director of Restorative
Enterprise at Interface, “reclaimed materials do not change the environmental
impact of producing carpet as much as
replacing virgin plastic with recycled plastic.” Nylon 6 or 6, 6 requires an incredible
amount of energy, water, and chemicals –
almost five times the energy used to produce other common plastics, he explains.
“If your nylon carpet fiber has lots of recycled content but none of it is in the nylon
face fiber, the recycled content isn’t as
environmentally meaningful,” Davis says.
It is also important to consider that
dangerous chemicals may still be present when you recycle carpet. Rochelle
Routman, Vice President of Sustainability
at Mohawk, cites the Living Building
Challenge’s Red List chemicals, which
include formaldehyde, lead, BPA, phthalates, and PVC.
“If you have old carpet containing these
harmful substances and you recycle it into
new flooring, the original chemicals don’t
necessarily disappear,” Routman explains.
She adds that, unlike 10 years ago when
companies would take anything they could
find to boost their percentage of recycled
content, the bigger picture is now being
considered, including residual chemicals.
In addition to reducing overall resource
consumption, carpets with a strong sustainability profile can strengthen your
Specify Sustainable Carpet with a Holistic Approach
Dig into the facts about your carpet’s green credentials
bottom line. Experts agree that recycled
content has no negative impact on performance or longevity. With new technologies reducing the frequency with which
carpet needs to be replaced, making
a green selection can have a profound
impact on a product that can be in place
Carpet containing repurposed materials
can also garner points in certification programs (see below). Davis points out that
a growing number of certification systems
are starting to acknowledge the entire
impact of building products rather than a
single attribute: “The shift in certification
systems from emphasizing recycled content to asking for full disclosure with an
environmental product declaration shows
how this understanding is evolving.”
Ask the Right Questions
So which attribute should you focus on?
As Ivey says, “There is not one specific
feature that makes a product more sus-
tainable than another. It’s the combination
of the overall efforts to manufacture the
product and design it with its end-of-life
He recommends third-party verifica-
tions like EPDs by UL and standards such
as ISO 9001 and NSF 140 to navigate
through supplier claims and hold manufac-
turers accountable. Routman echoes the
importance of third-party certification and
encourages facility managers to “work with
suppliers who share information openly.”
Davis offers these key questions to ask
your carpet supplier:
1) Where did this product come from?
Does its manufacturing process keep
materials out of the landfill or ocean?
2) Is it safe to use in its new application
based on the additives it still has from
its last life?
3) Did using recycled content substantially
reduce the environmental impact of
producing this product?
4) Can this item be recycled again?
“With the number of new transparency
tools, product declarations, and building
certifications, it’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to discern what makes a
product truly sustainable,” says Ivey. Use
information from neutral sources you can
trust such as the Carpet and Rug Institute
(CRI), Carpet America Recovery Effort
(CARE), and the EPA.
Being an advocate for the environment
and your own sustainability standards will
get you on the right (carpeted) path. B
Jenna M. Aker is a Contributing Editor for
SUSTAINABLE CARPET is more than just
a single green trait – ask about recycled
content, third-party verification, and
EARN LEED CREDITS WITH SUSTAINABLE CARPET
Recycled carpet content can earn multiple LEED credits, notes Philip Ivey, Sustainability
Leader, Global Floor Covering Division for Milliken.
■ ■ Flooring with recycled content can be submitted for Materials Credit 4 – Recycled Content.
■ ■ You can gain another point by diverting used carpet from entering landfills with Materials
Credit 2 – Construction Waste Management.
■ ■ Carpet with few or no VOCs qualifies under Materials Credit 4.1 – Low Emitting Materials.