Field: Circular economy, Sustainable manufacturing
Global Technical function: Manufacturing
Technical Function Unit: Eco-designing
Geographic Area: Netherlands

Implementing cradle-to-cradle concepts to create products with the right purity that can be recycled at high levels.

Desso is a manufacturing company of high quality carpet tiles and broadloom carpets in the Netherlands. The company has set the goal of becoming the world leader in the production of environmentally friendly flooring. Its products are characterized by their unique design, functionality and health benefits.

The challenge

Carpet which is made from fibres which display harmful characteristics such as stickiness, can give rise to the growth of bacteria if they are subject to damp conditions for a pro-longed period of time and are not cleaned as necessary. Desso aims to address the challenge of producing carpets which do not have harmful side effects.. .

The innovation

Desso uses a cradle-to-cradle (C2C) concept for its carpets. In this concept every part of the carpet tile is integrated into a technical and biological cycle. C2C carpets are designed with materials which can be recycled or used for other functions and products.  Desso controls the environmental impacts of its production processes through an environmental management system.

Through a C2C concept, the company wants to shift from a linear economic system where waste is produced for landfill or incineration, to a circular economy  in which products are made from materials that can be recycled endlessly.

The company developed innovative techniques to reduce raw material usage, switch to using natural fibres and resources as opposed to artificially produced ones, use renewable energy sources and design special goods which can be taken back and reused.

Desso takes back the old carpets (provided they do not contain PVC) through its Take Back™ program. The innovative Refinity® technique separates the yarn and other fibres from the backing of old carpets. This results in two material streams: the yarn, which is sent back to suppliers for recycling and the bitumen (currently the most common material for carpet backing), which is sold to the road and roofing industry. All non-recyclable fractions are used as secondary fuel in the cement industry.  

Desso’s supplier Aquafil has introduced a proprietary technology to recycle old Polyamide 6 yarn from used carpets into new material known as ECONYL®. ECONYL yarn is made from 100% recycled content including post-consumer yarn waste from Desso’s Refinity® plant. 50% of the company’s carpets range available for sale in 2012 was designed using ECONYL®.

Desso’s new carpet backing, EcoBase® received Cradle-to-Cradle® Silver Certification for meeting the tough environmental and human health criteria: A substantial percentage of materials used in EcoBase® were safely recyclable.

Why did it work?

The innovation emerged from the need to close the loop of carpet production, and increase the reuse and recycling of important materials. It worked because the cradle-to-cradle approach has unleashed sustainable manufacturing and eco-design innovation via techniques such as the separation of fibres, which enables Desso to separate the yarn and other fibres from the carpet backing, thereby producing two main materials that can then be recycled.

Further deployment

The company aims to make all of its products 100% recyclable or biodegradable and free of toxins by 2020. The maturity of Desso’s implemented eco-innovation is estimated to be 9 on GML scale.