Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NeoCon and the Great Strides in Carpet Reclamation

In a few weeks, Chicago will be host to NeoCon, the World’s Trade Fair; the Mecca of new products and concepts for the design community. Usually this show is all about the flash and the parties and food. This year, I would guess, will be different. There has been a lot of emphasis on green design and the “reduce, reuse, recycle” ideal in general. I fully expect that theme to be ever present at NeoCon.

I want to explore a few products that have been working overtime to be ahead of the curve on this move to be eco friendly. Thus far, the effort to streamline more environmentally friendly manufacturing has been extremely cost prohibitive overall.
The Muppet/Philosopher Kermit has so far proved that ”It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green”!

Shaw Industries is a company that has pulled out front for the past few years on the green movement, particularly with carpet recycling. Shaw is a flooring company that carries several lines, including Shaw Contract and The New Patcraft & Designweave, both of which I use for my tenant improvement projects. On a small scale, the company has provided prepaid mailing packets to designers to send back any carpet sample that goes unused. They are one of only a few that do that..
The concept of carpet reclamation was made evident to me when companies like DuPont were shipping used carpet to a reclamation site to be partially recycled in the early millennium. The problem was that it was super expensive to reclaim used carpet from job sites and deliver by truck to their one or two carpet reclamation sites in the country. Today, we see the recycle start at even the smallest carpet sample and on up. The concept of recycling and reusing has taken flight in the flooring industry.
Shaw today has 50 locations across the United States that collects carpet to be transported to their Evergreen Nylon Recycling Facility in Augusta, Ga. Nylon 6, widely used in both residential and commercial, is the preferred fiber to recycle. It can be returned to its original state without a compromise of its strength or resilience. This is a utilization of the “Cradle to Cradle” concept.

Cradle to Cradle was written in 2002 by William McDonough and Michael Braungart and outlines the industrial history, green design and how a person’s social consciousness has the ability to alter the outcome of sustainability of resources. In terms of design, the Cradle to Cradle concept means that a product is made using raw materials and installed. Once that product has been used and discarded, it is broken back down into raw materials to be manufactured again. This sheds a new perspective of reusing what is already existing and preserving raw materials in their natural state. It mimics the closed cycle of a plant. Simply stated, the plant grows leaves, they shed, then provide nutrients to the soil that fuels the next generation’s renewal. In the author’s terms, “Waste simply doesn’t exist”. This has been the basis, and to some degree, a manifesto for green industry today.

The important things to know about recycled materials in carpet today are:

1. The Content of recycled product in carpet is increasing
The New Patcraft & Designweave (which needs a shorter name, by the way)
Has a carpet with backing that is up to 25% recycled content. This is opposed to a few years ago when is was no more than 10%

2. The end user cost is coming down.
Recycled goods, just like organic food, is more expensive because of the additional processes involved. More recycling sites are being set up and now the reclamation is becoming automated, meaning quicker, cheaper turnaround for end-users. Always the bottom line!

3. More colors and styles are becoming available.
Oddly enough, recycled yarns are limited in the intensity of color. This has come a long way since I started in this industry 2 years…..um… I mean 9 years ago. This goes also for wall coverings and resilient flooring.

NeoCon this year undoubtedly will unveil even more concepts, recycling and design options for the environmentally conscious individual. The slumped economy has created the need to be more frugal and resourceful. This mixed with the momentum of the environmental movement, can only give way to major leaps and bounds in the recycling and reclamation processes and enviro-conscious design.

In the following months, I will touch on this subject through product information, LEED updates and my experiences with Eco friendly design. As always, have a nice day!

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