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Evergreen carpet leasing service

Established in 1973 Interface Inc., has grown to become a worldwide leader in design and manufacture of commercial carpet and interior fabrics. Having recognised the environmental burden associated with the use of non-renewable fossil fuels, Interface Inc., made a commitment to reducing waste, closing material loops and shifting their focus from selling products to providing services[1]. InterfaceFLOR is the modular division of Interface Inc. focusing on carpet tiles.

In 1995 InterfaceFLOR launched the ‘Evergreen Leasing’ system. As part of this system, the floor covering services are leased to the customer, who pays a monthly fee for the service, rather than buying carpet tiles (Figure 1). InterfaceFLOR retains responsibility for the maintenance of the carpeting throughout its lifetime; renewing and replacing damaged tiles or exchanging heavily worn tiles in areas of heavy traffic for less exposed tiles under desks or furniture. At the end of its useful life,  the carpeting is recovered and is recycled, downcycled or repurposed rather than disposed of in landfill[2].

Through the ReEntry system, InterfaceFLOR arranges for used carpet tiles to be retrieved.  If the reclaimed tile is in good condition it is cleaned and donated to a non-profit organisation for reuse, tiles in a lesser condition are reprocessed. Interface retrieves the nylon facing, which is either recycled back into carpet tiles or downcycled to produce secondary products like moulded car parts or underlay. The backing is ground up and remanufactured into new carpet tile backing[3].

In conjunction with developing service based systems, InterfaceFLOR has also continued to develop robust, sustainable products that deliver more value using less material, minimise waste, use renewable, recycled or recyclable materials, have a long lifespan and can be easily cleaned, replaced, repaired, reused or recycled. Entropy draws its design philosophy from nature. Using a biomimicry approach, Entropy simulates the random colours and patterns found in nature. Every Entropy tile is unique, therefore can be laid in a random, non-directional arrangement. The random nature of the colour and pattern allows individual tiles to be easily replaced, soiling and staining to be masked and wastage reduced[4].

Tirex indoor matting (Figure 2) is made from 100% recycled vehicle tyres. This sort of product not only allows customers to make a visual statement about their commitment to environmental issues, but is also incredibly hard wearing, and has a 'classic' styling.

InterfaceFLOR’s exploration of renewable resources has primarily been driven by the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. A key aspect in achieving this goal is their participation in the development of bio based materials. Polylactide (PLA) is a versatile, compostable polymer made using dextrose, a natural sugar derived from the starch in kernels of corn (or maize). The dextrose is fermented into lactic acid which is the basis of PLA[10]. The fibres extruded from the PLA have been used by Interface to create yarn with which to make the face fibres of the carpet. PLA biodegrades when composted, can be burned in an incinerator or has the potential to be recycled back into lactic acid thereby diverting used carpet tiles from being disposed of in landfill sites.

Sources of information:
[1]Anderson, R., 'Mid-Course Correction, Toward a Sustainable Enterprise: The Interface Model'. 1998, White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.
[2] Interface, Renewal: ReEntry scheme makes a little go a long way. 2006. http://www.interfaceeurope.com/Internet/web.nsf/webpages/556_EN.html,
[3] Interface, Leasing: convenient, cost-effective and sustainable. 2006. http://www.interfaceeurope.com/Internet/web.nsf/webpages/554_EN.html
[4] Interface, Entropy®. 2006. http://www.interfaceflooring.com/products/sustainability/entropy.html

Figure 1: Evergreen leasing service

Figure 2: Tirex

[Images courtesy of Interface Inc., October 2006]