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From windscreen to carpet

Online since 3.11.2015 • Filed under Advertorial • From Issue 16 page(s) 88-89
From windscreen to carpet

Recycled windscreen laminate is now used in green carpet production. Interface, an impressive European company with its products available in South Africa, reduces its greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.

In a radical move to increase sustainability in the global carpet industry, recycled automobile windscreen glass is now used as manufacturing raw material by Interface, the world’s largest modular flooring producer. Interface, which has its main production plant in the Netherlands, is locally distributed by the Kevin Bates Albert Carpets (KBAC) Group.

Sustainability milestones laid for 2020

The new windscreen recycling initiative follows a series of major sustainability milestones achieved by Interface since 1996 when its founder and chairman, Ray Anderson, put the company on a Mission Zero journey to become the world’s first sustainable restorative carpet producer by 2020. Measures already introduced by the company, which now uses 45% recycled or bio-based raw materials, include production driven by biogas derived from chocolate and fish waste, as well as converting old fishing nets into yarn, and using castor beans to reduce the company’s dependency on oil for carpet production. Lesley Fidrmuc, Interface’s consultant for KBAC, says there are over a billion cars in the world, of which at least 5% to 6% have windscreens replaced annually. ‘The European Union has been pushing for these windscreens to be recycled and now the laminate material, called Poly Vinyl Butral (PVB), which prevents the windows from shattering, has been given a second life. Interface is collaborating with several European partners to create a new supply chain of recycled glass that the company uses as a replacement for its existing latex carpet precoat, reducing its production carbon footprint by 0.7kg of carbon dioxide per square metres, equivalent to an 80% reduction. The precoat is a key component of carpet as it keeps the yarn stuck to the backing,’ Fidrmuc explained.

How it is done

Several innovative recycling developments have led to the availability of the PVB dispersion now used by Interface as a replacement for latex at its plant at Scherpenzeel. ‘The windscreens are sent to glass recycling facilities in Belgium and Germany where the glass is separated from the PVB and other materials using a series of advanced separation techniques. Using patented technologies, the PVB is then purified by a Belgian company that Interface has partnered with for the last seven years to develop a substitute for latex in carpet. Finally, another supplier, with which Interface has an exclusivity agreement, compounds the PVB dispersion to make it suitable as a latex substitute. The dry, applied PVB precoat contains 70% recycled material.’ Fidrmuc says Interface has access to up to 200 000 tons of recycled PVB per year. ‘The use of PVB instead of latex provides consumers with an infinitely more sustainable form of carpet. PVB resin is a non-toxic, non-corrosive product with exceptional tensile strength, adhesion and elasticity. It is also impact resistant. Although there are other carpet manufacturers that use virgin PVB for backing purposes, Interface is the first company in the world to introduce a carpet with a recycled PVB precoat. ‘Interface has incorporated its passion for ecological preservation in all its new carpet tile designs that KBAC distributes in South Africa. The latest biophilic designs create visual and physical connections with nature, using foliage, the sky, rivers, the sea, and other aspects of nature as dominant features. Local response has been exceptionally positive as architects and designers are now increasingly striving towards sustainable, responsible construction and interiors,’ Fidrmuc adds.

Noteworthy environmental performance

Brandon Park, KBAC’s sales director, says that since the beginning of 2014, Interface has been operating with 100% renewable energy in Europe (both electricity and gas), using virtually no water in its manufacturing processes, and has managed to attain zero waste to landfill. ‘This is particularly significant as carpets contain a high oil content in the nylon fibres and become non-biodegradable landfill components,’ he explains. Park says that by last year, Interface Europe reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 90%. ‘From a base of zero renewable energy in production in 1996, the company now uses a staggering 95% renewable energy. Greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 90% since 1996. Other major green initiatives introduced by Interface include the insulation of hot machine parts, installation of high efficiency boilers, and lower temperature materials,’ he adds.

Kevin Bates Albert Carpets (KBAC)

T +27 11 608 4270 (Neil Duncan)

T +27 21 464 4320 (Michelle Richards)


Issue 16

Issue 16

November 2015

This article was featured on page 88-89 of
To Build Magazine Issue 16.

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