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Desso cradle-to-cradle carpet tiles

Challenge

Build a cradle-to-cradle business model for flooring.

Problem

Desso is a leading global company in carpet tiles and artificial grass pitches. In 2008 it committed to becoming a ‘cradle to cradle’ business.

Cradle to cradle – pioneered by chemistry professor Michael Braungart and US architect William McDonough – is a “closed-loop” philosophy that aims to create products that can either be entirely recycled to provide the raw materials for new, identical ones, or are 100% biodegradable. Cradle to cradle seeks to emulate nature by using biological and technological nutrient cycles. At the same time, it looks to improve quality, eliminate risk to human health, employ renewable energy and achieve economic and ecological benefits.

Solution

To tackle this Desso had to start thinking about every material it used as nutrients and understand which ones could be recycled again and again. This meant taking their suppliers with them. Desso worked with Dow to make a polyolefin called EcoBase® that was easy to recycle. Despite it being 15% more expensive than the previous backing, it could be easily separated using a propriety solvent. Limestone chalk was used as a stabiliser.

Desso also set up its own recycling system so it could take back old carpets from both customers and competitors. The process (for bitumen backed carpets/tiles) separates the nylon yarn which can be reprocessed by a partner in Slovenia with a depolymerisation plant established in May 2011 at a cost of more than €17m. More than 60% of Desso's carpet tile range contains the resulting Econyl yarn made from 100% recycled content – including post-consumer waste from the plant.

Desso’s use of cradle-to-cradle thinking is driving innovation. The principles have led to new product lines such as AirMaster and SoundMaster. These are designed to improve human health by reducing fine dust to eight times less than for hard floors, eliminating off-gassing and reducing noise pollution through sound absorption. These developments to improve user quality are increasingly being worked on in conjunction with external partners such as Philips to ensure the carpet tiles are efficiently vacuum cleaned and can save energy (reflecting light from Philips bulbs so less lighting is required).

Future plans include the use of 100% renewable energy by 2020.

Benefits

32% reduction in energy consumption per carpet tile produced from 1998-2010
50% CO₂ reduction between 2007-2011 across the whole company
Renewable energy made up 33% of the total in 2011, up from 7.8% in 2008 and zero in 2007, following installation of a 25,000m2 roof covered by solar cells
Self treatment of waste water achieved a 56 million litre saving on fresh water in 2011
Increased European market share in business carpet tiles by 8% from 2007-2011
Nine-fold increase in earnings from 2006 to 2010 despite global recession and the carpet market falling 30%

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