Circular economy is fast becoming a sustainability buzz term; spoken by many businesses who may use recycled materials, but truly practiced by very few. Interface falls into the latter category. Their ReEntry program sees them reclaim used carpet to be recycled and kept from landfill, as well as taking a whole-of lifecycle approach to their own products.
“Circular Economy is based on three principles: design out waste and pollution in the early product development stage, keep that product and material in use, and regenerate the natural systems. These principles drive Interface to innovate and develop the products that will support a sustainable future. For us, circular economy doesn't mean that we take waste from someone else to use as a raw material for our product, circular economy for us is retaining the value of our product throughout its life,” explains Aidan Mullan, Sustainability Manager at Interface. “And at the end of life, getting that product back is the goal. We can extend its life or dismantle it into its constituent parts for manufacturing new products. That, to us, is a circular economy.”
That whole of lifecycle approach means Interface takes responsibility not only for the way their products are designed and manufactured, but how they are used and disposed of as well. Aidan elaborates:
“One of the key difficulties is ensuring customers return the product at the end of use. This is particularly challenging with a product that has a life warranty over 15 years. “The difficult thing is reverse logistics, in other words reversing the supply chain. That is key.”
Rather than wash their hands of what would seem to be a very difficult problem to solve, Interface developed a simple, yet brilliant solution - carpet leasing. “Just at the end of last year, we introduced a very useful tool that will support the circular economy model, we call it Evergreen Leasing,” explains Aidan. “It’s something Ray Anderson thought of in the 90s, but the infrastructure didn’t really exist to make it viable. Leasing provides an incentive for people to ensure our carpets come back to us at the end of its use through our carpet take back program, ReEntry.”
Product-as-a-Service, is becoming more common now, a key circular economy business model where companies retain ownership of their products and lease them as a service to clients.
Again, in a time where most businesses are touting their use of recycled materials, or that their products are recyclable (which, as Aidan points out, doesn’t really matter unless you actually ensure they are recycled), Interface are ahead of the game once again. They view their impact in terms of the embodied carbon in their products. “A product’s embodied carbon is the sum of the carbon emissions across the full lifecycle of the product from extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, transport, installation and use. Interface has measured these impacts and reduced them by over 75% and neutralised the remaining emissions by purchasing offsets.
The new innovative CQuest Bio backings are carbon negative removing more carbon from the atmosphere than is emitted during manufacture. “In the future there will be a bigger carbon impact from our clients actually cleaning the carpet than that from Interface manufacturing”.
“Circular economy is one of the key lenses through which Interface selects materials for its products, green chemistry and embodied carbon being the other two. This has been key to achieving its Mission Zero goal”.
Learn more about Interface.