New technologies are emerging to create durable carpet products that use renewable materials. In turn, fiber suppliers and carpet manufacturers are making products with more recycled and renewable content. Whether for commercial or residential use, these products are designed to offer environmental sustainability, improved aesthetics and day-to-day performance.
Invista’s Antron div. recently introduced TruBlend fiber technology, which uses nylon 11 derived from castor bean oil. The technology is offered in Antron Lumena solution-dyed nylon in seven colors. Castor bean oil is also used in Antron Bio Legacy white dyeable nylon, which was launched last year.
According to Diane O’Sullivan, Antron’s global marketing director, the solution-dyed product contains up to 25 percent pre- and post-consumer recycled content, as well as up to 5 percent bio-based content derived from castor bean oil. The Bio Legacy nylon uses up to 10 percent bio-based content derived from the oil.
O’Sullivan said that using renewable and recyclable products in a fiber can be a balancing act, both for cost and durability reasons; if the product contains too much of these materials, it might become too expensive to produce, or not as stable as a product that contain fewer of these ingredients. “There continues to be a lot of development on the post-consumer and bio-based side to bring the cost down,” O’Sullivan noted. “There was also a lot of engineering that went into these products to make them perform like virgin nylon.”
Fiber supplier Aquafil USA offers the Econyl family of products that contain recycled materials. Econyl 75 is made using 65 percent post-industrial and 5 percent post-consumer content not taken from recycled carpets, while Econyl Next contains 10 percent post-consumer content taken directly from recycled carpets.
Natalie Jones, Mannington’s vp commercial brand development and creative product, said micro-engineering, a tufting process that allows for low face weights but high durability, is letting manufacturers use less materials while still offering great performance.
“We are now able to get face weights as low as 11 oz., but the carpets are still dense, high-performance, and stand up to heavy commercial traffic,” she said.
Additionally, the company’s rEvolve modular carpet backing features a minimum of 30 percent recycled content, including at least 10 percent post-consumer and 3 to 5 percent rapidly renewable content. “Our extruded backing is a vinyl alternative. It’s a great story all around in terms of new technology and environmental benefits,” Jones noted.
Shaw Contract Group and Patcraft offer a range of products that are cradle to cradle certified. Both brands recently launched products that feature Solution Q Extreme, a fiber system engineered with inherent stain resistance. “This new fiber option joins longstanding ingredient brands Eco Solution Q premium branded nylon and EcoWorx” non-PVC carpet backing, said Tim Baucom, Shaw’s vp commercial sales and marketing.
Jeff West, Shaw’s director of environmental affairs, said that he sees the manufacturing process becoming more complex and requiring more automation as products become more green. “To control cost, products will become lighter. This will lead to increase usage of new polymers that are lightweight, but very strong. It will also affect the yarns that we use and how much we use. Yarn deniers will get smaller and tufting weights will get lower. Tufting technology will have to adapt to this change.”
Cathy Monsour, Beaulieu Commercial’s director of marketing, echoed those sentiments. “Manufacturers will be forced to develop technologies and processes that offer clients lighter, yet stronger [carpet] tile backings that maximize recycled content and sustainable features along with improved ease of installation.” She added that aesthetics are also incredibly important. The company recently introduced the Coloray yarn processing technology in its BOLYU and Cambridge lines. “This is a patented yarn processing technique that offers multiple combinations of color movement along the length of the yarn. It allows us to offer a space-dyed look in a solution-dyed nylon.”
Jenny Rogers, J+J Invision’s director of marketing, believes environmentally friendly technology represents “the most exciting current developments in our industry.”
DuPont Sorona, a polymer derived from corn sugar, is a cornerstone ingredient in Mohawk’s SmartStrand with DuPont Sorona carpets. (DuPont Sorona is also used in commercial carpet fibers.) Dawson Winch, DuPont Applied BioSciences’ global brand manager, said the polymer is designed to offer both performance and environmental benefits.
“By incorporating rapidly renewable feedstocks instead of petroleum-based feedstocks, Sorona reduces dependency on oil,” she noted. Sorona is also engineered to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and energy consumption. “Plus, Sorona can be recycled at the end of its useful life,” she added. “SmartStrand with DuPont Sorona is made using 37 percent content from renewable sources rather than petroleum. Every seven square yards of SmartStrand Sorona saves the petroleum and energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline,” noted Bart Rich, Mohawk’s director of brand management. Additionally, the company’s EverStrand BCF and EverStrand BCF XtraSoft fibers are derived entirely from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. “One out of every four [plastic] bottles recycled in North America becomes Mohawk carpet,” Rich said.
With consumers beginning to ask for softer carpet products, Mohawk also recently introduced Wear-Dated SoftTouch with SoftFusion technology. “It combines twist, heat and a proprietary process that delivers a supremely soft, plush fiber,” Rich explained.
Ralph Boe, Beaulieu of America’s president and ceo, said manufacturers are partly moving to recycled PET fiber because spun nylon is becoming increasingly expensive to produce. Additionally, manufacturers are moving to softer products because more and more residential carpet is being used primarily in bedrooms.
He said Beaulieu’s residential line offers a range of technologies, including Silver Release technology to minimize the growth of mold and mildew, and a Magic Fresh treatment to reduce odors. Earlier this year, Beaulieu launched its Bliss Stainmaster with Magic Fresh collection. “It’s the first time Invista has allowed anyone to put any other treatment on their own Stainmaster treatment,” Boe noted.
He added that while interest in green products is growing among consumers at the residential level, it’s more the responsibility of manufacturers to offer environmentally sustainable products.
“Everyone is looking at how we can better utilize post-consumer carpets and materials, and post-industrial materials to reduce the carpet footprint,” Boe said. “Our spun polyester products and certainly some of our competitors’ products are utilizing water bottles as a main ingredient, which keeps bottles out of the landfill. If it doesn’t raise the cost above virgin, consumers are very satisfied. If the cost goes beyond the cost of virgin, it’s not going to be as widely accepted.”
Steve Sieracki, Shaw’s vp category and product, residential soft surface, said his company’s carpets are becoming softer as well as greener. “The Anso Colorwall styles launched in 2010 are exceptionally soft. They are constructed of 100 percent BCF Anso nylon, and all Anso nylon products now contain 25 percent recycled content.”
Shaw also turns recycled plastic drinking bottles into PET polyester fiber. These products are also becoming softer, according to Sieracki. “Our Cleartouch BCF PET line received an upgrade in 2010 with new product introductions in soft filament PET,” Sieracki noted.
He added that sustainability is growing in importance in the residential segment. “We are hearing more and more in the retail community that more consumers are asking about various attributes of a product from a green aspect.”