Architects and contractors often have a difficult time convincing clients that vinyl products are eco-friendly, sustainable and non-toxic. Despite industry experts and insiders recognising modern vinyl’s value and significant benefits and the decision taken in 2011 by Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) to withdraw the Mat-7 PVC Minimisation credit from the Green Star SA rating system, doubt regarding the environmental credentials of vinyl-type products, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plastic continues to linger.
Assessing the environmental impact
“When assessing any product (including flooring products) from a sustainability point of view, it is very important to start by asking the right questions. When measuring the environmental impact of a floor as a stand-alone product, you therefore need to understand the cradle-to-grave impact of that product, the manufacturer’s contribution to the sustainability of its people and the surrounding community and the manufacturer’s economic sustainability,” says Tandy Coleman, Chief Executive Officer of Polyflor SA.
From cradle: The raw material components of vinyl flooring
Vinyl is essentially made up of 57 % salt chlorine and 43 % oil (ethylene), salt being one of the world’s most abundant natural resources. All raw materials used in the manufacture of Polyflor vinyl flooring are responsibly sourced from the closest possible suppliers and purchased in bulk to minimise the transport impacts. “Polyflor floorcoverings predominantly use sustainable materials. As an example, our homogeneous range of products use up to 85 % sustainable materials (with the average being 71 % across the range). All plasticisers, stabilisers, inks and pigments are REACh compliant and free from harmful substances such as formaldehyde, lead, cadmium, mercury or hexavalent chromium,” Tandy says. tbl vinyl floor coverings twoBoth Polyflor and their suppliers are ISO 14001 certified and therefore meet all legal and policy obligations with regards to controlling the impact of their activities, products and services on the environment.
To grave: dealing with post-production waste
Vinyl is 100 % recyclable and can be recycled many times over without losing any of its performance properties. Last year alone, 17 000 tonnes of PVC was recycled in South Africa alone. Of this, 7 tonnes were vinyl floor off-cuts that were collected and recycled into traffic cones, rubber boots and sheeting through Polyflor SA’s first official vinyl floor recycling programme aimed specifically at the local vinyl flooring industry. Vinyl waste such as chippings, clean trims and offcuts generated on-site during the production process is stored and reused in another production run in order to minimise the use of natural resources.
And everything in-between Energy efficient production process:
At Polyflor’s production site in the United Kingdom, 96% of the water used to manufacture the company’s vinyl flooring, is recycled water. From 2000 to 2011, the company also made concerted efforts to reduce their consumption by almost half:46% of the fuel mix for electricity supplied to Polyflor comes from renewables, with 25% coming from natural gas. Carbon emissions were also reduced by 15,236 tonnes in this time.
Transport and distribution:
Routes are carefully planned to ensure efficiency and recycling is collected on backloads where possible. Polyflor SA works with two local transport companies. One is currently moving to the more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly Scania trucks and discussions in this regard are underway with the other service provider. When transporting product from the UK to SA, only full containers are shipped (not per order) and, where possible, containers are shipped to the port closest to where they are required.
Polyflor SA conducts regular, extensive installation training to ensure efficient installation and best product longevity. Installation training focuses on how to create a durable floor, use the recommended products and reduce wastage.
Product is not re-packaged in South Africa. When the containers arrive, they contain polystyrene sheets, cardboard and paper, all of which are readily recycled locally. All wooden pallets and wooden crates are either sold for reuse or reused internally.
Polyflor SA’s company building:
All paper, glass, plastic and cans used by employees are recycled. The company has installed its own water tanks and built sample and accessory shelving used at their Johannesburg head office out of recycled pallets. In addition, all the insulation in their offices was done using recycled packaging polystyrene.
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Long-term financial and environmental benefits:
Polyflor vinyl floorcoverings are exceptionally durable, with a lifespan of 20-25 years if suitably maintained. In many instances it has, in fact, been known to last much longer and offer the following benefits during its lifetime:
All Polyflor products are thoroughly tested by the British Research Establishment (BRE) and meet its stringent advanced testing methods and life cycle analyses. In fact, 25 ranges have achieved the highest possible A+ rating in key use areas. This international accreditation is invaluable in promoting the sustainability of our floors and have helped contribute to our products being specified by leading architects and specifiers.
One of vinyl’s strengths is its much greater resistance to water than many alternative materials. For use in areas where there can be extensive contact with water, vinyl is impervious and can be thermally welded so the joints actually fuse together. It is inherently more flexible and easily self-coved, meaning that it offers excellent recovery from indentation.Slip resistance: Polyflor safety flooring can be used in a variety of internal-use areas, including hazardous locations such as kitchens, stairwells and showers where slipping is likely if incorrect flooring is specified. Polyflor’s Polysafe range is fully compliant with both Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and UK Slip Group guidelines, offering sustainable wet-slip resistance which lasts the full lifetime of the floor.
Vinyl is engineered to provide the best fire performance characteristics of all resilient flooring materials. Vinyl flooring is slow to ignite because its chlorine content makes it flame retardant. In fact, a fire which is large enough to ignite vinyl would have already produced fatal levels of carbon monoxide from other burning materials before creating any danger from burning vinyl flooring.
Concludes Tandy: “Vinyl is exceptionally energy efficient to produce and has a relatively low carbon footprint – in fact, it has proved to be the same as frosted cornflakes. As a member of the Southern African Vinyls Association (SAVA), Polyflor is committed to reducing our environmental footprint as much as possible through the responsible and sustainable use of additives, recycling where we can and creating products that will last a lifetime with the minimal use of water or other cleaning products. Our hard work globally to reach the very high environmental objectives we have set for ourselves, has a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately climate change and continues to be a major driving force for Polyflor”.
To download Polyflor SA’s latest e-Book on sustainability, visit http://info.polyflor.co.za/news
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Issued on behalf of Polyflor SA by Aim Marketing & Communications Consultants.
All Polyflor products are compliant with REACH specifications (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals is a European Union regulation that addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment. It is the strictest law to date regulating chemical substances and will affect industries throughout the world.