October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9
By Ken Ryan
Pittsburgh—There are flooring companies that like to stake their claim to the “green” label when, in reality, their products mostly meet baseline certification for sustainability. And then there are those few companies that take responsible manufacturing to an entirely different plane.
That short list includes Tarkett.
From eco-design and installation to recycling and reuse, Tarkett has demonstrated over decades a commitment to continuously developing products with the planet and people in mind.
Tarkett North America has applied cradle-to-cradle principles to product development since 2011 and today holds more product and material certifications (175) than all other flooring manufacturers. “Having so many products and materials cradle-to-cradle certified demonstrates our commitment to both the built environment and the planet as a whole,” said Diane Martel, vice president of environmental planning and strategy for Tarkett North America.
Martel was a presenter at the Living Product Expo in Pittsburgh in September. She took part in a seminar titled: “Can PVC be made into a Living Product?” PVC, which is used in most manufacturing of vinyl flooring, has several advantages, including low cost and ease of replacing individual tiles. However, PVC is not inherently green, experts say. In fact, it has been called “the poison plastic” because the emissions from PVC—at certain levels—can create health hazards such as dioxins and furans, two of the most toxic chemicals on the planet.
During the discussion, Martel argued that PVC could be a sustainable product if done responsibly. “It’s about cleaning up the chemistry of PVC. We’re taking other people’s wastage streams and finding potential use for it. PVC is extremely easy to recycle. We should be closing the loop on PVC.”
By “we” she means the flooring industry at large. Tarkett wants to work with other companies to find solutions that will benefit the planet. “We can only solve this if we collaborate and people adhere to something that is actionable and reasonable,” Martel explained. “We find that opening the door to collaboration and cooperation is really the path to take. You have to be in a place where everyone is rowing the same direction. As a company, as an industry, as a planet and as a world, we have to be doing that.”
Tarkett will be doing its part. “We value our position as a global leader in sustainable flooring, and see these certifications as a way to guide our industry toward creating products that are better for people and better for the environment,” Martel added.
Among Tarkett’s achievements:
- It is a partner of the World Economic Forum on circular economy, climate change and quality of life in the urban environment.
- It was the first flooring producer to deploy phthalate-free vinyl flooring in North America.
- Tarkett launched fully transparent Material Health Statements in 2016.
- The company continually improves the chemistry within products to improve the built environment, including removing ortho-phthalates from products and developing Eco-Ensure, a fluorine-free soil protection technology for all Powerbond and modular products.
When Martel took on her role as VP of sustainability a decade ago, she said sustainability was a lot about the planet (i.e., waste reduction, water reduction) but today it is a more balanced, holistic approach.
Rudi Daelmans, director of sustainability for Tarkett, said sustainability is evolving to what he termed “system thinking,” where everything is connected—the nutrients in the water, the safety materials, indoor air quality. “It is still evolving. It is a continuous drive toward sustainable business, which will drive innovation and new products. Staying on top of things and concentrating on sustainability makes you push your boundaries. If sustainability drives innovation you will have a company that is profitable and lasting.”
On the subject of innovation, Tarkett recently launched a backing material through its Tandus Centiva brand called ethos Modular with omnicoat technology. According to the company, ethos products are PVC-free and made from recycled PVB film commonly found in the abundantly available waste from automobile windshields and safety glass. In addition, ethos Modular is cradle-to-cradle certified Silver v3.1 and SCS Global Certified NSF 140 Platinum. Depending on the specified product, the total overall recycled content ranges from 26% to 51%. ethos is 100% recyclable through Tarkett’s ReStart program.
Paul Evans, vice president of R&D, Tarkett North America, said ethos addresses one of the most long-standing issues in new construction and renovation, namely moisture or other adverse flooring conditions that require costly delays in time as well as the potential for testing and remediation.
“Just as importantly, we make the backing using PVB derived from the recycling of film found in windshields and other safety glass, because a product that’s good for the health of those who use it and is made with respect to the environment begins with quality materials sourced properly.”