Leading carpet manufacturers in the United States are stepping up efforts to communicate the components of their products and their relationship to human and ecological health according to US trade association the Carpet and Rug Institute. CRI president Joe Yarbrough told Chemical Watch that they were doing this through Health Product Declarations (HPDs) and certified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). Mr Yarbrough’s comments are in response to a recent report by the NGO Healthy Building Network (HBN), which called for the fundamental redesign of the carpet industry to eliminate toxic chemicals so that carpets can be more recyclable. The HBN report claims that manufacturers consistently fail to fully disclose carpet ingredients and green certifications did not address some of the key substances of concern. Mr Yarbrough said that carpet manufacturers “work with a variety of certification programmes to evaluate and verify the safety and sustainability factors of products, such as Cradle to Cradle and Declare”. He added that 95% of carpet meets the CRI’s Green Label Plus programme. This sets standards and limits for indoor air quality and “ensures that customers are purchasing the very lowest emitting products on the market”.
In response to the report, Interface, the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial carpet tile, said that it is the first in the industry to disclose product ingredients through EPDs and HPDs globally on its website. Chief science and technology officer, John Bradford, told Chemical Watch that “the industry has followed suit in disclosure, but there is more work to be done to educate the market about specific materials of concern, especially where there is potential for exposure”. Interface has committed to having no negative environmental impact by 2020, part of which includes removing known harmful materials from its products. “Through a global initiative, all of our designated materials of concern will be removed globally in early 2018, which keeps our loop clean and enables us to scale recycling to greater volumes,” Mr Bradford said. He added that while he agreed with the sentiment of the HBN report, he would like to see it place more emphasis on recycling. “We believe that recycling is a critical piece of the puzzle and we would love to see the industry implement protocols and guidelines to ensure that it can scale up quickly and safely,” he said. As well as “working to drive recyclability” of its products, he said that Interface supported regulatory efforts to encourage carpet recycling, such as the California bill (AB 1158, Chu) which was signed into law in October. This mandates recycling 24% of post-consumer carpet waste by 2020, a doubling of the state’s current carpet recycling rate. CRI’s Mr Yarbrough said that carpet is more complex to recycle than other products, because it is made from many materials that are bound together in different ways, “making it complicated to deconstruct, sort and process”. However, he said “industry’s resolve in this challenge is strong” and it was committed to “investing in innovation and sustainability, product health and safety and the careful use of natural resources”. The issue of removing hazardous chemicals from waste streams is a hot topic of discussion in Europe. The European chemicals agency’s (ECHA) newly appointed head, Bjorn Hansen, said at his inaugural address to the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (Envi) last month that the decision to have different regulations for chemicals in recycled materials than for chemicals in primary products is a key challenge for the circular economy. Meanwhile, environmental NGO Greenpeace, recently warned that without eliminating the use and releases of harmful chemicals from production chains, “the circular dream could well become a toxic recirculation nightmare”.
Chemical Watch, 30 November 2017 ; http://chemicalwatch.com