Commissioned by Interface to celebrate our Mission Zero anniversary, John Elkington has written a case study titled – ‘Interface: The untold story of Mission Zero in Europe’, which charts our journey over the past 20 years highlighting the systems changes we have brought into the core of our business. Here is an excerpt that looks at the footprint of carpet tile. You can download the full study here.
“Interestingly, in a pattern seen with many other industrial products, LCA research reveals that the environmental footprint of carpeting is disproportionately concentrated at the point where basic raw materials are extracted and processed. It is estimated that 68% of the total impact is created at the raw materials stage, with 17% produced during the stages that Interface has direct control over (with manufacturing accounting for 9%, transportation for 8%), a further 8% during use and maintenance, and 7% at the end of the carpet’s life, critically including disposal.
When it comes to the environmental impact of Interface products, the image below illustrates how particular materials have significantly greater footprints than others. The nylon yarn that forms the walkable surface of a carpet turns out to have around four times more impact than the backing material, according to Connie Hensler, Interface’s Global LCA Director. The analysis assumes a product life of 10 years, although many factors can impact that life expectancy. Ultimately, the design, use and final fate of carpeting products reflects the prevailing market paradigm, a subject we turn to next.
At the waste disposal end, to give some sense of the rate of carpet recycling, in the U.K. 85,000 tonnes of carpet were diverted from landfill in 2012. This represented an increase in diversion from 16.5% in 2011 to 21.4% in 2012. Of this volume, 36,000 tonnes were recycled or reused, with 49,000 tonnes used for energy recovery. Clearly, again, there is an enormous gap still to be bridged. More positively, in California, where an estimated 400 million pounds of carpet are disposed of each year in the State’s landfills alone it recently passed a law to recycle 75% of waste by 2020. And as of July 1, 2011, California law AB2398 requires a 5-cent “carpet stewardship assessment” on every square yard of carpet sold. The pressure may be building slowly, but the sense at Interface is that it is all headed broadly in the same direction, of tightening controls.”