PVC and the Journey Toward Healthy, Sustainable Materials

At Interface, sustainability is at the core of who we are, so we carefully consider the materials we use in our products. We live in an industrial system where most materials are still made in ways that negatively impact our planet and our health. We do not accept that running a profitable company has to have these impacts. Instead, we are committed to showing the world a better way to do business. 

Through our commitment to achieving Mission Zero® by 2020, we strive to:

  1. Eliminate chemistries of concern from our products
  2. Eliminate the use of virgin raw materials by making all of our products from recycled and bio-based materials
  3. Close the loop by being responsible for our products at the end of their life
  4. Eliminate the carbon footprint of our products

In light of Mission Zero, we are often asked why we continue to use PVC plastic in our modular flooring since the potential negative impacts of this material’s life cycle have been widely publicised. 

The answer boils down to a few key things:

The healthiest plastic is the one you don’t use.

Innovation in product design and use of recycled materials has allowed Interface to dramatically reduce the amount of virgin plastic in our products, including a more than 60% reduction in the use of PVC in our carpet tile. With a long-standing screening process in place – in addition to a lack of exposure pathways – the way we manage our recycled PVC is preferable to virgin plastics.

Vinyl backed carpet tile is the most recyclable flooring.

In an era where the vast majority of flooring ends up in a landfill or an incinerator, Interface has built a true closed loop system for vinyl flooring.

Old carpet tile backing and now our new LVT products can be recycled through ReEntry® to feed our 3rd party verified closed loop production system and make GlasBac®RE backing. This system allows us to safely make new carpet tile backing from old, avoiding the life cycle issues traditionally associated with the production and end-of-life of PVC and other plastics.

Not all PVC is created equal.

The PVC that we use in our Asia Pacific operations conforms to the Green Building of Council Australia Best Practice Guidelines, which means it does not contain mercury, cadmium, lead stabilisers, or any of the short-chained phthalates that concerns about toxicity primarily relate to – such as Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP, also known as dioctyl phthalate - DOP), benzylbutyl phthalate (BBP), or diethylbutyl phthalate (DBP).

Compliance with the Guidelines also shows that the PVC that we use is part of a proven take back and reuse/recycling system and contains recycled materials.

We took the unusual step of utilising these independent guidelines developed in Australia because PVC use continues to grow despite efforts like Red Lists, making it vitally important that specifiers have a way to ask for better PVC. Compliance with this eliminates the traditional concerns about the manufacture of PVC, harmful additives like heavy metal stabilisers and phthalate plasticisers, and end of life.

While some products claim “PVC Free” as if that alone made a product healthy and sustainable, our system assesses and optimises all materials (including PVC plastic) for their contribution to green chemistry, the circular economy, and the creation of a climate fit for life.

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