Posted on 18 March 2010The powerful adhesives currently used to bind the layers of carpet tiles together make it challenging to recycle them. In Europe, around 70 million kilogrammes of carpet tile waste is incinerated or sent to landfill sites every year.
Researchers in the University of York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence have created a new starch-based alternative that allows the layers to be separated and recycled.
The results of our research provide a potential solution to a serious waste problem
Professor James Clark
Testing has shown that the new adhesive is just as strong as established products, can withstand steam cleaning and is also highly flame retardant.
Professor James Clark, Director of the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, said: “Carpet tiles are becoming increasingly popular so it is important we find ways of producing them in a more sustainable way.
“The results of our research provide a potential solution to a serious waste problem and also demonstrate in broader terms how end-of-life considerations can be incorporated into product design without sacrificing quality.”
A key characteristic of the product developed in York is that its adhesive quality can be switched on or off using a chemical treatment that is inexpensive and does not damage the tile materials.
The research, which is published in the journal Green Chemistry, was conducted in collaboration with the UK-based operation of global carpet tile manufacturer InterfaceFLOR.
During the mid-1990s the company changed its business model to consider and reduce the environmental impact of every creative and manufacturing decision made. Now defined as Mission Zero, the company’s drive to eliminate its impact on the environment by 2020 plays a central role in the innovation of its products, services and processes.
Miriam Turner, Innovations Project Manager at InterfaceFLOR, said: “We have been working with the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence since 2004, when we began sponsoring a PhD to develop this innovative technology.
“With Technology Strategy Board funding, we have been able to keep this project going, thus bridging the gap between promising academic work and pilot scale industrialisation.
“We believe this new adhesive could play an important role in helping us to achieve our Mission Zero goal.”
InterfaceFLOR is the modular flooring division of US-based Interface Inc. The company is a worldwide leader in the design and production of high-quality, innovative modular floor coverings.
Interface was one of the first companies to publicly commit to sustainability, when it made a pledge in the mid-1990s to eliminate its impact on the environment by 2020.
Known as Mission Zero, this goal influences every business, manufacturing and design decision made and underpins all dimensions of the company: people, process, product, place and profit.
Interface is now more than half way to reaching its Mission Zero goal and has been widely recognised for its achievements to date. Its products have also received several awards, specifically for design and innovation. Recent accolades include:
The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the Government. Its role is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve quality of life. It is sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). For more information please visit www.innovateuk.org.
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