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Tile: Ceramic companies leaving big impression with small carbon footprint

Ceramic tile has long been known as one of the most hygienically clean and environmentally friendly products the flooring industry has to offer. The segment is full of companies that take the matter of making a small carbon footprint to heart, and in practice, in a very big way. The following is an environmental update of what some companies are currently doing in the way of environmental friendliness.

Crossville

According to Lindsey Ann Waldrep, vice president of marketing, the mill has recently announced several major green accomplishments.

Crossville has become the first and only U.S. tile manufacturer to attain third-party, SCS-certification for its waste recycling processes.

Now all tile produced by Crossville will contain certified recycled content. Basically, Crossville’s certified recycled content has three sources:

•First, the company recycles its own filtrate waste;

•Second, Crossville recycles (actually crushes) its own fired scrap tile and through its Tile Take-Back program, the previously installed tile of its customers;

•And third, Crossville has joined with TOTO, the world’s largest manufacturer of sustainable, luxury plumbing products, to recycle that company’s pre-consumer fired sanitary ware. Now all products produced by Crossville will contain a minimum of 4% certified, recycled content from TOTO, in addition to varying percentages of Crossville’s certified filtrate and fired waste.

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) has verified that Crossville, through its recycling processes, annually recycles approximately 12 million pounds of previously land-filled filtrate, fired tile and pre-consumer sanitary ware. This has enabled Crossville to become a net consumer of waste, consuming more manufacturing waste than it generates, as well as conserving resources; the volume of goods Crossville ships now exceeds the amount of raw materials it extracts from the earth for use in manufacturing.

“Sustainability has been part of Crossville’s mission since the company began 25 years ago and it goes far beyond manufacturing,” said Waldrep. “From using FSC-certified paper and printers to creating a sustainable sample kit to developing new methods of showcasing products that reduce waste, Crossville looks at the impact every operational procedure has on the environment.”

Dal-Tile

Ceramic tile is one of the most environmentally friendly floor and wall covering products due to it extremely long life (upwards of 60 or more years), zero VOC con- tent or emissions, and low maintenance requirements, noted Robert Hurt, the mill’s director of environmental health and safety. “Nevertheless, Dal-Tile is always looking to make products even more sustainable. Several actions have been implemented in the last two years to do so.”

Among these initiatives, Dal-Tile is “aggressively pursuing” a goal of significantly reducing the wastewater it discharges in the manufacturing of its products, noted Hurt, with a goal of ultimately achieving the threshold of zero process wastewater discharge at all plants, where feasible through machinery, production modifications and technology upgrades.

Last December, Dal-Tile completed a capital project that allows it to capture 100% of the wastewater from the evaporative coolers on the plant’s roof. This wastewater is now used to make up the water needed to formulate the facility’s extruded products, said Hurt. “This minimizes the amount of fresh water needed to make the quarry tile products and helps to conserve valuable natural resources.”

As a result of this project, its Fayette, Ala., plant has achieved 0% discharge of process waste- water and, based on actual consumption records during 2009 and 2010, is projected to save over 500,000 gallons of fresh water annually.

In total, Dal-Tile now has five manufacturing operations that have zero discharge of process wastewater: El Paso, Texas; Gettysburg, Pa.; Fayette, Ala.; Lewisport, Ky., and Monterrey, Mexico. In these facilities, not a single drop of process wastewater goes to waste, Hurt said. “The process changes that have been made allow us to recover and reuse over 90 million gallons of process wastewater every year. The Monterrey operation’s ability to realize this achievement is particularly significant as that facility has four separate plants— floor, mosaic, wall and large unit wall—that combined produce more than 200 million square feet of tile annually.”

At Dal-Tile, we believe the best design includes consideration for the environment, said Hurt, “which is why we developed Greenworks, our philosophies and operating practices that are reducing our impact on this earth. Greenworks is more than just a compilation of our sustainability programs—it’s a company-wide philosophy, a commitment to help you design sustainable projects without compromising your artistic vision. With Daltile products, great design needn’t be sacrificed in order to protect the remarkable designs nature has provided for our inspiration.”

Fincibec Group

Fincibec production plants based in Italy take environmental protection very seriously, said Vittorio Borelli, CEO of Fincibec Group, and offer special guarantees to this respect such as: energy savings achieved through the co-generation plant installed in the Sassuolo establishment; air pollution emission containment and reduction; full water emission reduction; and reuse and 100% differentiated recycling of processing waste, which means significant reduction of natural raw material consumption. “These initiatives make the Fincibec Group, including Monocibec, Naxos and Century and its products, an industrial eco- sustainability model.”

And that’s not all, he added. “Following its need for continuous improvement, Fincibec has started a research project to reduce the impact of the production process on the environment. The result has been the identification of a ceramic body including a percentage of recycled material higher than 40%, without diminishing the technical performance of the tile.” This composition has been certified by Bureau Veritas, one of the worldwide leaders in the risk and evaluation analysis for quality, health, safety, environment and social accountability.

Florida Tile

The environment has always been important to Florida Tile, and we have had a dedicated environmental specialist at our factory since the ’70s, said Sean Cilona, director of marketing. “Our current initiatives are part of a program called CARES (Creating A Responsible Environmental Strategy). This is made up of a host of items that we feel are quite substantial to reducing our overall environmental footprint.”

Raw materials. “We have all locally sourced materials,” he explained, “that reduce transportation and resources. Those, include a considerable amount of post-industrial recycled content. Another part of this is what we recycle from the production process.”

Production. “We recycle as much material as we can,” Cilona noted, “from the water used in cleanup to dust collected from around the factory, this is then put back into the body of the tile. We also recycle paper, plastic, wood and pallets that come in to the factory and distribution center. Through this process we are also now able to re-grind and recycle fired tiles. This is a new initiative for us with a significant investment in a re-grinding machine last summer. This along with the raw materials contributes to our overall value of 40% recycled content, recently certified by the third party, Bureau Veritas.”

Finished product. After production there is sometimes the issue of overstock or second grade material. “This is either recycled or sent through a number of non-profits that we work with, from Tile Partners for Humanity, to smaller local groups such as Mountain Resource, dedicated to local building projects,” he said. “Another initiative we pioneered for the industry is GreenGuard certification. We were the first to have all our products certified for IAQ and we continue to support this initiative. Lastly, we’re going to be one of the first to participate in an upcoming GreenSquared initiative from TCNA. This takes a macro “approach to the process and evaluates the company as a whole.”

Lea

At Italy-based Lea, all the waste produced during the production process is recycled internally or externally, noted a marketing representative for the company. “All of the non-fired material, which does not comply with our high quality standards, is reused in the production cycle. As these products are not yet fired, they can be reinserted into the initial phases of the production cycle, reducing the need for raw materials.

“On the other hand,” the rep said, “the fired material cannot be recycled into the production cycle and is therefore recycled externally and used in the construction industry such as the foundation of roads. In addition, non-ceramic waste is differentiated and recycled externally.”

The production of tiles requires large amounts of water. In order to safeguard this precious resource, Lea recycles 100% of wastewater from the production            cycle, which allows the reduction of water consumption by 60%, the company noted. “We also make sure that none of the water used in the production cycle is discharged into the ecosystem.”

Mohawk

Ceramic tile has a naturally strong sustainability story, noted Kim Krause, assistant brand manager, hard surface. Raw tile materials are extracted from abundant and naturally occur- ring clay, shale and other rock-like materials. “But at Mohawk, we go even farther to ensure our ceramic tile is some of the most sustainable on the market. We maximize reuse of recycled materials to keep the use of virgin raw materials in our ceramic tile to an absolute minimum.”

Nearly all of Mohawk’s ceramic tile offerings— 97% to be exact—contain some waste by- products from both internal and external manufacturing processes. “We are able to recycle millions of pounds of waste material into new products, including our own waste-fired tile that doesn’t meet rigorous quality standards,” she said. “As a result, millions of pounds of waste are diverted from landfills each year.”

As more consumers seek sustainable products, retailers are able to use the green attributes of Mohawk’s ceramic products as a selling tool. Mohawk ceramic offers consumers a sustainable product partially made from recycled and renewable materials, and in addition, it also features a longer lifespan than some of the other flooring categories.

From a process standpoint, Mohawk is committed to reducing the amount of water used to manufacture ceramic tile, Krause said, and continues to innovate resourceful ways to reclaim water that is consumed in manufacturing. “Many of our manufacturing sites have achieved zero discharge of process wastewater, with other locations making significant reductions year over year.”

Mohawk’s commitment to sustainable innovation is paying off, she added, as new technologies come online and reduce the need for natural resources. The mill’s Reveal Imaging is one of the newest and most sophisticated design application processes in the flooring industry, and is currently available on four tile collections: Cardenas, Gravura, Novara, and Villarreal.

“Look for Mohawk to expand the use of this technology to include additional ceramic collections in response to consumer demand for highly sustainable and durable flooring,” Krause concluded.

NovaBell

The ‘NovaBell ecosystem’ brand is used on NovaBell products that contain at least 40% recycled content, noted Marco Pellacani, export area manager for the Italy-based company. It denotes the firm’s sustainable development program, expressed through continuous meticulous research into the reduction of waste, the reuse of waste materials in the production cycle, recycling, and the reduction of energy and resource consumption. NovaBell also requires the same responsible behavior of its suppliers of raw and unfinished materials.

Most of NovaBell’s products contribute to LEED points for architects and designers, helping to promote sustainable projects around the world.

NovaBell has also been awarded the Ecolabel, the European Union’s environmental quality mark—an achievement that guarantees the low environmental impact of NovaBell’s products throughout their entire life cycle and the observance of strict EU community criteria concerning the environment, he noted.

Pamesa

In addition to being an ISO 14001 certified manufacturer, Pamesa is also a strong innovator and leader with regard to cogeneration, noted William Bannentine, U.S. export manager. “As Spain’s first porcelain producer, we feel the environment is an important consideration going forward.

“It has become clear during economic times like these that Pamesa has one of the most solid, well-run, cost structures in all of Europe,” he added. “Recycling and using environmentally friendly measures that also reduce production cost, allow us to come to the world market with value and competitiveness for our clientele.”

Shaw

Tile in general is considered a very green and sustainable product, noted Jason Kyzer, the mill’s category manager for tile and stone. “It has one of the lowest life cycle costs of any product on the market, is scientifically proven to have zero VOC’s or off gasses and is easy to clean with- out harsh chemicals.

“In fact,” he added, “due to its VOC free nature, ceramic and porcelain tile products are exempt from all testing criteria outlined in LEED IEQ Credit 4.3. We also look for product with both pre- and post-consumer recycled content as well as factories with sustainable initiatives. To ensure our products truly do have recycled content as stated, we have each certified by Bureau Veritas.”

-Louis Iannaco