Asia & Europe Leadership by Interface

Asia & Europe Leadership by Interface

Interface becomes the first global manufacturer to offer customers carpet tile recycling in Asia. The  fully localised ReEntry programme is yet another key milestone in Interface’s journey towards its Mission Zero  goal – a commitment to eliminate any negative impact it may have on the environment by the year 2020. And in Europe, Interface manufacturing has achieved a 90% impact cut, with greenhouse gas emissions around 10% of what they were when Ray Anderson, Interface’s founder, issued this challenge in 1996. Read More

Radical Industrialists

Interface: How our engineers slash massive waste, emissions

By Peter Vogel in GreenBiz (17 March , 2014)

What happens when a team of European engineers take Ray Anderson’s vision of “radical industrialism” to heart? Interface’s factory in Scherpenzeel, The Netherlands.

GreenBiz readers are probably familiar with our sustainability plan at Interface, Mission Zero. Scherpenzeel, our main European manufacturing site, just reached 90 percent of the goals laid out in this plan. GHG emissions are now around 10 percent of what they were when Ray Anderson, Interface’s founder, issued this challenge.

Scherpenzeel is a full-scale carpet tile factory producing around a third of the company’s global output. Although it is a constant test-bed for new ideas, it definitely is not a small-scale pilot plant. Everything done there is proven at full scale and ready to be shipped to numerous clients and projects. Since 1996, the company has cut absolute GHG emissions by 90 percent and water use by 95 percent, while waste sent to the landfill has been eliminated altogether.

Most of this progress is owed to engineers. Where existing technology hasn’t provided the environmental performance needed, they’ve looked elsewhere for answers.

New technology drives progress

For example, the conventional carpet tile cutter produced an unacceptable amount of trimming waste, and nothing available in the industry significantly could reduce this. So engineers had to go outside of the carpet industry. The outcome was a bespoke ultrasonic cutting machine, using NASA technology from the aerospace industry. Waste from trimming was reduced by 80 percent.

As another example, the backs of carpet rolls need to be coated with a water-based plastic solution in order to hold the yarn. The conventional dryer for the process is energy intensive, running on natural gas. Engineers knew they had to find a better way than the 20 percent more efficient technology originally proposed by the suppliers. So a solution devised with a drier manufacturer used the moisture in the pre-coat to improve heat transfer and energy efficiency. The result was an energy savings of 40 percent from day one. There is even more potential, being explored now, which should lead to gas savings of more than 50 percent.

Usually, if you ask suppliers to improve their product, they will propose efficiency gains in the 10 to 20 percent range. By sending Interface engineers to work directly with supplier’s engineers, we’ve been able to jointly identify new approaches to the process, typically leading to 50 to 80 percent gains.

Working toward a new industrial model

The advantage of reducing energy use so much is that it makes it feasible to pay more for energy. This means all the energy at Scherpenzeel is sourced from renewables, including gas for the dryer made by anaerobic digestion of fish, chocolate and bread waste. This costs more per unit of energy, but there’s still a big overall savings compared with the conventional dryer.

The trade-off between a major energy saving achievement and approval to pay more for a sustainable energy source is a vital part of Mission Zero. If accountants “banked” the energy cost savings and declined the expensive new energy, it wouldn’t be possible to achieve zero environmental footprint. This approach to financing sustainability is discussed in our report “The New Industrial Model,” written in collaboration with Lavery/Pennell.

Sometimes, engineers cannot identify alternative technology and have to seek efficiency gains from what’s available. Here, obsessive attention to detail pays off. A heat scanner is used to show where to insulate heating equipment, which is wrapped up like a baby in winter. In the compressed air room, twice a year a microphone is used to listen for the “hiss” of air leaks — literally the sound of sustainability escaping, because air leaks are wasted energy.

Many of these energy saving projects pay back relatively quickly, and we believe that this approach is transferable to many industries. Carpet tiles are a relatively simple product, and a 90 percent impact cut has been achieved. Imagine the possibilities if this same culture shift were applied to other industrial processes.

Lessons for other companies

1. Big challenges empower employees.

2. Create a sense of urgency: Why wait if we can do it now?

3. Celebrate engineers and encourage them to get out of the factory and talk to other engineers. Listen to them tell their story below.

4. Create an engineering culture that believes “there has to be a better way,” using both big technology shifts and an obsession with small improvements.

5. Make a deal with finance: Some of the process savings must be reinvested in sustainable innovations that are in themselves not economic, such as a long return on investment items or more expensive raw materials.

6. Re-allocate most of the PR budget to achieving real progress; then the story sells itself (save just enough PR budget to give the engineers the credit they deserve). 

Peter Vogel is the European director of technology at Interface, where he is responsible for engineering, maintenance and process, and material research for Europe. He has a chemical techology background and experience in product development and process design, and has spent the last 15 years at Interface.



Getting closer to reaching its Mission Zero® goal, and extending its service offering in Asia, Interface enable carpet recycling through ReEntry™.

 (SINGAPORE, April 28, 2014)— Interface, a worldwide leader in the design and manufacture of carpet tiles, becomes the first global manufacturer to offer customers carpet tile recycling in Asia. Strategic partnerships ensure that carpet tiles suitable for recycling are diverted from landfill, allowing customers to recycle within the region. The announcement of a fully localised ReEntry™ program is yet another key milestone in Interface’s journey towards its Mission Zero® goal – a commitment to eliminate any negative impact it may have on the environment by the year 2020. 

In 2007 Interface, Inc., in Atlanta USA, became the first carpet tile manufacturer to implement a process for the “clean separation” of carpet fibre from backing, allowing for a maximum amount of post-consumer material to be recycled into new products with minimal contamination. In efforts aimed at reducing overall environmental impact, Interface continuously source recycled content for its products regionally, and has been looking for alternatives to recycling regionally as well.

In 2013, just two years after opening its manufacturing base in China, Interface created an exciting industry first by announcing the launch of ReEntry in China, enabling Interface to become the first global carpet tile manufacturer in Asia to offer its customers recycling in Asia. The company is currently well down the road to develop a similar recycling facility for its manufacturing plant in Chonburi, Thailand, following extensive work with local partners there.

At the recycling plant in China, used carpet is received and those tiles that are not made by Interface are tested for recycling suitability. In the recycling process the yarn is separated from the vinyl backing and cleaned yarn is then sent to the yarn manufacturer for recycling into new yarn. Yarn with high levels of impurity, also known as “fluffy” yarn, is sent to the engineering and plastic materials industry for downcycling into new material. The recycling process also includes turning the old backing into new backing. By processing the backing into crumbs and then combining it with Interface’s fibreglass sheets in the calendaring process, old backing is turned into new GlasBac™RE backing.

Interface Chairman and CEO Dan Hendrix states, “China is obviously a key growth market for Interface and as the global leader in modular carpet, we are committed to blending innovation and the best ideas from China and around the world. The launch of ReEntry in China is a true landmark for Interface because it is a further step towards the realization of our global aim to attain Mission Zero, and it also reinforces our belief that ground-breaking solutions can be achieved through truly ‘glocal’ partnerships.” 

Interface is a longstanding environmental pioneer, and is also working closely with fibre suppliers to continually reduce the virgin content in the nylons purchased. This has resulted in new and innovative technologies that significantly increase the recycled content of Interface products; currently reaching a total recycled content of up to 85%, including 100% recycled content Type 6 Nylon.

Since 1995, Interface has globally reclaimed more than 118 million kilograms of carpet through ReEntry, and by efficiently recovering type 6 and 6,6 nylon fibre Interface takes a giant step forward in carpet recycling and in the company’s ultimate mission to get off oil. Reflecting Interface’s Mission Zero goal, ReEntry will keep more carpet out of landfills while providing a steady stream of post-consumer recycled materials across the industry.


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