Carpet tiles are a good alternative for the savvy shopper. They are inexpensive and, if you spill red wine on your little beige beauty, all you have to do is exchange this one tile. The downside is that the glue that is being used to hold the layers of the tiles together is commonly made of PVC or other unrecyclable chemicals.
According to an article in Green Chemistry, a British publication focusing on cutting-edge research on the development of alternative sustainable technologies, that currently leaves about 154 MILLION pounds per year of used tile to clog our landfills in Europe alone. This number can be doubled or tripled for the US.
But help is on the way. The Green Chemistry Center of Excellence in Great Britain, which is part of the University of York, conducted a study to get to the bottom of the problem. The powerful adhesives used to bind the layers of carpet tiles are so strong they can’t be separated. But the researchers, supported by the British division of InterfaceFlor, a U.S.-based manufacturer and distributor of carpet tiles, developed a new starch-based adhesive that is just as strong as established products. But, it still allows the layers to be separated and recycled for roofing materials or backing layers for new tiles, for example. Also, its resistance towards fire and extreme heat accounts as a huge success.
The conclusion the researchers established are promising:
“We have proved that expanded starch retains its good surface area characteristics after modification, and is then well suited to adhering carpet tiles that are used in the commercial sectors. The adhesive can also switch under controlled conditions potentially enabling diversion of huge quantities of used tiles that currently end up in landfill. The deconstructed tile backing and fabric layer can now be recycled, achieving a closed-loop system. As an added bonus, the adhesive shows excellent flame retardancy, negating the need for potential hazardous additives and resources. Our discovery can make an enormous contribution to sustainability through waste reduction, increased resource efficiency, and the use of renewable resources. Spin-off value of the remarkable flame retardancy of our starch materials may also be dramatic.”
Find the complete report here.
The separating process is rather inexpensive, which means even for the industry, not just for faculty, those findings could be a major breakthrough in sustainable flooring.
InterfaceFlor, the supporter of this research is for years already heavily involved in green technologies. Years ago they committed to Mission Zero, which involves:
• Zero Waste
• Benign Emissions
• Renewable Energy
• Closing The Loop
• Resource-Efficient Transportation
• Sensitivity Hookup
• Redesign Commerce
The company ambitiously wants to achieve those goals by 2020. We will follow their achievements, one tile at a time.
Images courtesy of InterfaceFlor and Peter S. Shuttleworth, James H. Clark, Robert Mantle and Nigel Stansfield, respectively. Subsequent images reproduced by permission of the Royal Society of Chemistry.