When we talk about sustainability there’s a very compelling argument to take a more holistic approach. Just look at Interface and the huge impact it has had not only on the environment but the economies of small communities throughout the developing world.
30 June, 2017
As awareness and information surrounding global warming continues to escalate, more and more companies are committing to sustainable manufacturing practices. Especially since the COP21 talks in Paris last December where 196 countries came together to discuss climate change, an increasing number of industries are finally paying attention to the critical issue at hand. We now have a collective goal to reach in limiting our carbon emissions, so as not to exceed a 1.5 degree Celsius global temperature rise, and the majority of those who attended the talks are passionate about realising this.
However, as we look at becoming more sustainable, there is a very pressing need to respond with holistic solutions. To consider those solutions that foster sustainable economic practices for small communities as well as green environmental practices. And one company who recognises this already is Interface, the world’s largest commercial carpet manufacturer.
Thanks to the foresight of founder Ray Anderson, who announced back in 1994 that Interface was committed to becoming the world’s first environmentally sustainable and ultimately restorative company, the manufacturer has been engaging in sustainable processes for years. Among its more recent initiatives though is ReEntry 2.0 – a closed loop recycling process for carpet tiles, which takes ReEntry (the recycling scheme that it introduced in 1995) to a whole new level! This allows all types of carpet – commercial and residential – to be reclaimed.
Thanks to the development of a clever new technology, Interface can cleanly separate the face fibre and backing of nearly any carpet type. So separated type 6,6 nylon fibre is recycled into new 6,6 nylon while separated vinyl backing is recycled into new vinyl backing using the company’s Cool Blue backing technology. What’s more, the entire process requires less energy than other recycling processes.
Through Re-entry 2.0 the company has created the industry’s first-ever range of products using post-consumer type 6,6 nylon fibre. Fittingly, it is call the RePrise Collection. And for the remaining materials, Interface has identified other recycling partners, thus ensuring that no reclaimed carpet ends up in landfill. It is also currently working with waste management specialist SITA to offer an energy recovery service for those tiles that are unsuitable for recycling.
All of this is great progress in itself but what makes this initiative even more worthy of acclaim is that Interface is now incorporating reclaimed fishing nets into its 100% recycled content Type 6 Nylon. And the process of salvaging these fishing nets is creating jobs in small communities throughout the developing world via a program called Net-Works.
Net-Works was set up in 2012 when Interface joined forces with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL); Interface wanted to source material in a way that would benefit communities as well as the environment whilst ZSL were looking to develop a new model of community-based conversation – one that would bring immediate benefits to local people and break the traditional cycle of donor dependency. The ingenious scheme empowers people in small coastal communities in developing nations to collect and sell discarded nylon fishing nets, whilst also removing the nets from the ocean where they wreak havoc on marine life.
However, Net-Works doesn’t just create business opportunities; it also operates in such a way that allows people to save money and take out small loans thanks to the use of local community banks, which provide access to finance in a way that is convenient and local. These banks also manage the local net supply chain by organising the coastal clean-ups, facilitating sales transactions and creating ‘environment funds’ to help finance local projects.
Since 2012 142 metric tonnes of waste nets have been collected, 1500 families have been given access to finance and 62,000 people have benefitted from a healthier environment. It’s a win-win situation on all accounts. Interface isn’t just reducing its dependency on oil; it is helping our seas, reducing our landfills, improving our atmosphere and sustaining small communities throughout the developing world! Imagine what could happen if we all took such a holistic approach to sustainability.
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Known as an innovator in developing the relationship between digital technology and architecture, UNStudio explores the formal complexity and a deep integration of facade and interior space in a Shanghai shopping mall Lane 189. Neo Disheng writes for Cubes 87.