Tarkett has been awarded a subsidy from the EU’s LIFE programme in support of its commitment to develop carpet products that can be recycled in a healthy closed loop system, based on Cradle to Cradle® principles.
The Tarkett project ‘ClosedLoopCarpet’ is focused around developing the most effective methods in the separation of materials as the basis for the closed loop recycling of carpet waste into polymers and new products.
The current linear model of ‘take, make and waste’ is unsustainable. Today in Europe, 95-97% of used carpets are either dumped into landfills or burnt in incinerators. Large amounts of this waste, especially nylon, is not biodegradable and according to Cradle to Cradle® principles should be designed to go back into the technical sphere for healthy recycling, rather than end up in landfill.
The linear model is unsustainable for several key reasons:
- It uses up energy and scarce natural resources;
- Landfill waste pollutes the soil and groundwater;
- Incineration adds to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2009, Tarkett established a take-back and recycling programme for used carpets in six EU countries and has been steadily increasing the amount of material it takes back. However, there are various technical challenges to overcome especially in relation to the scaling up of the separation of waste material into reusable compounds that are pure enough to meet Cradle to Cradle® standards for non-toxicity.
The aim of Tarkett’s LIFE project is to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of a separation line based on innovative shredding and cryogenic separation technology. This enables Tarkett to separate used carpet material into its original separate primary resources, which can be used in the production of new carpet products or for the production of new polymer material known as depolymerisation. The project expects to increase the purity of the final material from 85% to at least 97%, providing the only possible basis for non-toxic closed loop recycling – and thereby creating a breakthrough technology.
The project aims to:
- Develop a Cradle to Cradle® manufacturing process for carpets;
- Produce recovered materials for reuse in high-quality applications. This requires a sophisticated separation and purification line to ensure that the recovered materials, including polyamide (yarn, one of the main materials used in carpet manufacturing), and polyolefine (carpet tile backing) can be reused; and,
- Recycle each output material as much as possible into new high grade materials.