How Does "Green" Relate to Flooring Installation?
March 4, 2009
In 1993 to establish awareness, the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association, CFI, led the way for installers to become knowledgeable about industry requirements and the opportunity to work safely and protect themselves.
Questions were incorporated into the certified testing program that related to the EPA and the environment. Installers became instantly aware of chemicals they had been using for years that were not safe, as well the use of chemicals used indoor that posed the possibility of dangerous situations, low- or no-VOC adhesive products, HazCom plans, training and Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS). This all became part of a knowledgeable installer’s or company program to protect the worker and the customer. Installers learned to adapt to new adhesive products, to avoid or learn to work around asbestos, and for many their education continues today in order to be better informed.
In 1992, the Carpet and Rug Institute launched the Green Label program that sets limits for the level of VOC emissions from carpet, adhesives and cushion that can be released into the indoor air. CRI’s next series of improvements called Green Label Plus for carpet and adhesives sets an even higher standard for indoor air quality (IAQ) and assures customers that they are purchasing the lowest emitting products on the market. For detailed information, visit www.carpet-rug.org. Since 1996, the CRI has promoted a carpet code identification system on the backs of carpets to help identify their content. Carpet remnants are also used as reinforcing fiber for concrete, road underlay, plastic, lumber and automotive parts, according to the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE).
Carpet systems that meet or exceed CRI’s Green Label or Green Label Plus. Projects can earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits by incorporating salvaged materials-such as refurbished, reused or recycled carpet-into plans for new construction or renovation. Projects can also earn credits by incorporating carpet containing recycled content materials.
The U.S. Green Building Council (www.USGBC.org) is a nonprofit organization with a vision of sustainable built environment within a generation, dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and the LEED Green Building Rating System. This is a voluntary, based national rating system for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.
Carpet Recycling Program
Take carpet, for example. According to industry statistics, the amount of “end-of-life” carpet entering the waste stream from healthcare facilities and other segments is growing daily. There is approximately 5 billion pounds annually with 96 percent of this headed for the landfill. Used carpet poses environmental hazards and leads to negative environmental consequences.
Recycling programs have been in use by manufacturers for many years. Some of the programs involve the CARE (Carpet America Recovery Effort) was initiated in 2002, working closely with the EPA. The goal of the industry is to recover 40% of post-consumer carpet by 2012. The industry has recovered an estimated 500 million pounds. That national estimate could be too low. In Wisconsin, Sargenian’s Floor Coverings estimates more than 225 million pounds of used carpet was reclaimed in just one year by the StarNet Commercial Flooring Cooperative, a network of 150 independent contractors across the country.
InterfaceFLOR grinds post-consumer carpet tiles to make new carpet backing and recovered over 16 million pounds and recycled 84% of it. SHAW has entered the recyling business with the purchase of the Evergreen Recycling Facility and a collection system to gather millions of pounds of carpet. Since 1996, Tandus has diverted more than 100 million pounds of reclaimed vinyl and vinyl carpet from landfills and turned it back into 100 percent recycled content backing for its floor coverings. Milliken claims that the manufacturing facilities have recorded zero waste to landfills since 1999.
Mohawk through the GreenWorks Center processes all types of synthetic carpet fiber; 100% of the carpet – fiber, backing and latex – and recovers about 90% of the post-consumer carpet waste. The facility is also portable and goes to the carpet. Through the ReCover program, a unique recycling solution that keeps carpet out of the landfill, the customers call Mohawk and the logistics are worked out for disposable. ReSource through the Ecollect, reduces and eliminates waste that impacts the environment. On the website, the tracking of hundreds of thousands of pounds of carpet recycled by the member companies (www.resourceconnect.com). These and other manufacturers are making progress in recycling, greatly reducing the tons of floor coverings that go into landfills each year. Currently, billions of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic beverage bottles each year are used to make polyester carpet fibers.
Today, installers are working with recycled cushion, recycled carpet and many types of recycled flooring products. “Green Centers” are showing up in a wide variety of dealer showrooms. Many contract workrooms have collection sites on location. Numerous large commercial contract centers focus on the “green” customer. One company advertises that in 10 years, 100% of the carpets will be recyclable as designers, dealers, builders and the consumers become more aware of the availability and request them.
The use of flooring products and installation that are environmentally friendly are far reaching. CFI was involved in the LEED project for the Assiniboine Indian Council in Montana using the Armstrong Migrations, an eco-based floor tile. Concerned about the environment, the group embarked upon a training program for students to become knowledgeable about the correct applications, requirements and achieve the ability to continue this work throughout the new building program at the college.
Installation companies should be “selling” green as it has become economically feasible. Visit the websites of companies involved in recycling and become more knowledgeable. “GREEN” is here to stay.
You should be familiar with questions that customers are asking, such as:
• Do you follow LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Guidelines?
• Do you follow NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) guidelines?
• “Green” products
• “Green” flooring installation
• LEED Certified Companies
• LEED Accredited Professionals
• Information about methods used to install flooring of all types
• Information about what happens to products following the installation
• Use of VOC (volatile organic compounds) adhesives
• Can you recommend environmentally safe cleaning using the Green Seal Standards?
• Do you implement eco-friendly practices?
• Do you administer low-impact environmental policies?
Everyone is going to be made more and more responsible for proper disposal and forced to offer recycling options. There is a growing push by local and federal governments toward this idea. It is the trend and the installation contractors are going to be held more and more responsible for proper disposal and forced to offer recycling options because of the environmentalists. The main problem as we see it from the independent contractor installation side of recycling is proper compensation for doing this work. It has to be profitable for all concerned.
Individual installers must be able to communicate “green.” Installation companies should be selling “green” as it has become economically feasible. Visit the websites of companies involved in recycling and become more knowledgeable. “Green” is here to stay; make it work for you.