In nature, nothing is wasted. By returning valuable nutrients to the soil and other ecosystems, nature rebuilds its resources. This idea of circularity has become more important in the manufacturing, specification and installation of flooring products. Instead of a linear process, where materials are taken from the Earth to create products that are eventually thrown away, manufacturers today are looking to innovation to stop the production of waste that would end up in landfills and the environment.
"The life of a product can be more than just one use," said Malisa Maynard, vice president of sustainability, Mohawk Industries. "How can we think holistically and transition more to this circular mindset?"
Maynard said the flooring industry has a wealth of opportunities to close the loop and thoughtfully minimize environmental impact across the product life cycle. Product circularity provides many benefits that include helping to reduce costs, secure product sourcing, managing carbon emissions better and meeting customers’ desire for more sustainable products.
"Consumers are starting to be more focused on buying products that are made sustainably, and that means different things to people," Maynard said.
Sustainable product design sets the stage for reducing flooring’s environmental impact during all stages of the cycle. Mohawk looks product circularity through three lenses: "make", "use" and "recover".
"Make" aims to innovate regenerative products through thoughtful design and efficient manufacturing that optimize material use and expand post-consumer and sustainable content. It employs a zero-system-waste framework, including renewable energy use, to minimize products', full life-cycle impact.
The concept of "use" ensures healthy environments where product life is extended through superior performance and durability. It educates end-users about post-life cycle options for reducing environmental impact.
"Recover" reclaims materials for a second and subsequent purpose after an initial, useful life.
"Our job is to continue to optimize and make every single product even better," Maynard said. "We don't believe that we have all of the solutions today. We do believe that we need to broaden our collaboration and work with partners within the industry and outside of the industry to find new solutions to get the most useful life out of the materials that we have in circulation."
Through circular design, Mohawk reduces the material required in manufacturing. Here are some examples of how circularity works across flooring types at Mohawk.
In 2021, technologies at Mohawk Industries reduced the thickness of ceramic tiles while retaining their durability. This enabled the company's Global Ceramic segment to save 23,698 tons of raw material or 2.6 percent of total consumption.
The Marazzi brand uses post-consumer recycled content to reduce raw material requirements in the production of its Malino Gres Porcelain products by almost 17 percent.
Carpet Fiber & Backing
Mohawk's proprietary ReCover backing technology removes latex and polypropylene from carpet backing and substituting polyester fibers, and the result is an easily recyclable product.
In addition to reducing the amount of material used in manufacturing, Mohawk uses sustainable materials that are either renewable, recycled or bio-based. For example, in New Zealand, sheep are shorn every nine to 12 months, providing a source of renewable wool for Godfrey Hirst and Feltex carpet collections. In fact, Godfrey Hirst’s 100 percent wool broadloom features a natural jute secondary backing, making up to 75 percent of the material used in the products biodegradable when they wear out after long-term use.
Each square yard of EverStrand carpet contains on average 63 reclaimed plastic bottles, averaging more than 6 billion recycled bottles each year.
Mohawk's commercial LVT manufactured in Dalton, Georgia, includes 100 percent pre-consumer, post-industrial recycled content.
Commercial Carpet Tile
IVC commercial carpet tile products use Econyl fibers, which is made with 100 percent regenerated nylon from fishing nets, ghost nets, old carpets and fabric scraps rescued from all over the world. It has a performance equivalent to virgin nylon yarn.
Mats & Rug Pads
Mohawk Home, the company's North American rug business, upcycles rubber tires to create door mats. In 2021, the company diverted more than 49 million pounds of rubber tires from landfills. In addition, Mohawk recycles plastic bottles into the fiber used to tuft bath mats and converts waste carpet fibers into rug pads.