Sarah Gilberg | July 08, 2011
A few weeks ago on the Signal blog, we examined some of the tradeoffs in choosing a carpet for its recycled content, particularly with regard to carpet backings made with coal fly ash, a coal combustion waste product which has been found to contain mercury and other hazardous heavy metals. Pharos allows subscribers to evaluate not only complete carpet styles but also individual carpet components (fibers and backings), because we find a lot of innovation and differentiation at the component level. Our research on carpet products and their components for the Pharos Building Product Library has led us to some interesting alternatives, including carpet backings that achieve high scores for recycled content without fly ash.
Tandus Flooring, for example, uses post-consumer recycled polyvinyl butyral (PVB) in ethos™ backings used in Powerbond resilient sheet flooring and modular carpet styles.
When we asked Tandus why they chose to develop this alternative, they attributed the choice largely to demand from a major customer. Ross Leonard, Director of Marketing for Tandus Flooring, explained, "About ten years ago, Tandus Flooring was asked by Kaiser Permanente to collaborate with them in the development of a new type of floorcovering for their facilities. Among the key criteria for this new floorcovering was that it had to made without chlorinated polymers, had to contain high levels of post-consumer recycled content that could be third-party certified, be fully recyclable using currently existing technology and processes and meet Kaiser Permanente's demanding performance requirements."
The decision to use PVB in particular was a result of over two years of exploration and evaluation by Tandus' Research and Development Division. "At the time, polyvinyl butyral (PVB) was a widely used plastic (primarily as the clear film laminated between glass in automotive windshields and other types of safety glass) but not as a floorcovering," Leonard explained. "Better still, there appeared to be a healthy supply of post-consumer PVB since there are millions of cracked and chipped windshields that are replaced every year. While the recyclers are equipped to recycle the glass components of windshields, there was no commercial use for the PVB flake that resulted as a byproduct until Tandus Flooring developed its innovative process."
In Pharos, Tandus' Powerbond ethos cushion backing earns a relatively high score of 6 in renewable materials for its use of 100% post-consumer PVB, and its ethos backing for modular tile earns a score of 3 for its mixed use of post-consumer and pre-consumer PVB. Both of these products earn scores of 5 in user toxicity and in manufacturing and community toxics, the highest of any carpet backing evaluated in Pharos to date.
Pharos users can now view other cutting-edge, high-recycled-content carpet backing alternatives. Manufacturers submitted data for each of these backings. After rigorous data quality review processes, we have added these products to our product library in recent weeks:
Tandus, Shaw, and Interface fully disclosed the material content of these innovative backings. Their data provides Pharos users with all the information they need to evaluate and compare these products' environmental attributes.
Subscribers to Pharos can view the full profiles of these carpet backings and many more in the Building Product Library. Pharos' multi-attribute scoring allows users to weigh the costs and benefits of these products' environmental and health impacts for their project needs. We choose not to provide an overall score or ranking for these products because we know that our subscribers may prioritize these values in different ways. One person's recycled gold may be another's poison.
We are continuing to engage with many carpet manufacturers. The Pharos platform has generated consumer / manufacturer discussions which will improve the recycled content and reduce the health impacts of carpet backings.