Zero Avoidable Waste in Flooring – Towards a Circular Economy is an important new report from The Contract Flooring Association. Aiming to establish a benchmark for the environmental and sustainability position of the contract flooring supply chain, the report sets out the achievements of the industry so far and highlights the challenges and priorities for improving the sector’s performance in the future.
Building on a report issued by the CFA in 2010 (The Flooring Resource Efficiency Action Plan), Zero Avoidable Waste in Flooring – Towards a Circular Economy tackles these issues in the form of a scoping study. Sustainability has now risen even further up the policy agenda than it was a decade ago. In fact, the concept of a sustainable economy now underpins the Government’s strategy for a recovery of the construction sector post-covid.
“The flooring industry is keen to emphasise that it is on the same page as Government, with regard to the need for constant improvement on sustainability,” says Richard Catt, CFA Chief Executive Officer, who contributes the foreword for the Report.
“Many companies in our sector are already doing everything they can on this – developing sustainable products, considering how the waste from their processes can be reused,” says Richard. “The CFA itself is at the leading edge – with this report being an example of our willingness to invest in pushing the boundaries on sustainability. We are soon to begin collaborating with international partners on a four-year research programme, concerned with developing circular products and we are actively supporting the Sustainability Summit at CFJ Live.”
The concept of the Circular Economy goes far beyond recycling and flags up the need for a fundamental re-think in business models to ensure that products and services provide maximum benefit with the minimal impact on resources. It is in essence the concept of keeping materials within the economy at the highest level of value for the longest possible period of time.
The CFA believes that understanding and implementing this will be one of the major demands on business and individual companies in the coming years. The concept is a further development of the thinking which underlies the CFA’s annual Sustainability Guide – a more commercially driven publication, which gives companies in the sector the opportunity to promote their latest environmentally friendly products, projects, and recycling initiatives.
“The stall that we are setting out with Zero Avoidable Waste in Flooring – Towards a Circular Economy is that we understand there are some sectors where there is still much work to do,” says Richard. “Within contract flooring, we know what the challenges are, and we are determined to confront them, and as an industry, as a trade association, we understand that our only way forward on this is to be totally proactive, which is what we are seeking to do.
“In short our message to opinion formers, to legislators and to Government is: You do not need to heavily legislate within our sector (and possibly trigger unintended consequences). The flooring industry is playing its part and we will seek to partner with all the relevant agencies to make the circular economy a reality in contract flooring.”
In practical terms the 50-page scoping study identifies a number of high-level opportunities which should be acted upon to build on the current work towards zero avoidable waste. These cut right across the contract flooring sector supply chain. They include:
- Increasing the awareness of and participation in existing recycling and re-use schemes, as well as establishing new ones to increase capacity
- Encouraging green procurement within public sector building contracts to favour flooring solutions that can provide a re-use or recycling route at end of life
- Publishing best practice guidance for flooring design to encourage design for recycling
- Utilising existing tools such as building information modelling to facilitate the recycling and re-use of materials both during and at the end of a building’s lifetime
The Report concludes that progress has been made over the last ten years with regards to sustainability in the textile, resilient and wood sectors. It states that designed-in recyclability and reuse has been a strong focus for the sector, with much work already done to optimise material use and reduction of waste during manufacturing.
However, although recycling and re-use schemes exist, the quantity of flooring that is re-used or recycled remains low. The Report examines some of the barriers which contribute to this, including product design to facilitate recycling, the availability of recycling and uplift schemes, and the infrastructure to support these schemes at a practical level. This includes support for segregation on site and a much bigger and more cost-effective collection network to feed the schemes. Finally, a major re-think of business models will be required around all of this.
According to Richard Catt: “We are aware that the next stage is for the industry to put together an action plan on how to overcome the barriers presented in this report and exploit the opportunities that have been highlighted. These opportunities in large measure revolve around the industry as a whole, as well as individual companies, embracing new business models suitable for the circular economy. We hope and believe the publication of this report represents an important milestone on the road to achieving this.”
Zero Avoidable Waste in Flooring – Towards a Circular Economy has been compiled on behalf of CFA by Axion. CFA is very grateful to all members, companies and stakeholders who contributed to the Report.