Today, full circularity of floor coverings is not yet happening on a large scale. Especially when the flooring is glued to the subfloor the solutions are limited, although this applies to the vast majority of resilient flooring in use today. That is why Forbo has taken on the challenge to fully recycle 13,000 m2 of 20-year-old Marmoleum floors into brand new Marmoleum.
In 2020 the Delft University of Technology reached out to Forbo Flooring with the wish to re-use their old flooring material. Now recycling is not new at Forbo, but recycling an old floor that has been thoroughly used and walked on - and has glue residue all over it - is a serious challenge.
For Marmoleum, there has always been a production recycling flow in place for trimming leftovers. That material is used to make new raw material for our linoleum flooring.
In early 2000 markets close to the factory introduced a Back to the Floor Program; a take-back service for cutting waste from newly installed floors. This presented us with the challenge to ensure the recycling stream is clean and useable. This has also been the biggest challenge in the TU Delft project.
Renovation is usually a matter of demolition and reconstruction but the project for TU Delft required a more delicate approach. Both the subfloor and the floor covering needed to remain as intact as possible and contamination of the material had to be avoided. With a special floor stripper, the Marmoleum was removed quickly and meticulously.
The individual sheets of removed linoleum, thirty centimetres wide and two and a half millimetres thick, were rolled up and collected in wheeled containers. The vast majority of the old flooring construction could be reused. A small proportion of leftovers was used as either a binding agent in the cement industry or a coating in the furniture industry.
The processing of the old floor took place at the Forbo Flooring Systems factory in Assendelft. The material is undergoing a final quality check before it is shredded to reduce the material to flakes the size of a two-euro coin. After that, it is milled and sieved. What remains is a fine powder that can be used as a base material for new Marmoleum. And with that the circle is complete.
The new Marmoleum has now been installed in the EEMCS faculty building. Dutch company CooLoo produced lounge areas with soft seating, finished with a coating made from the old Marmoleum floors.
With more and more flooring today being installed without adhesive, circular solutions will be easier in the future. But, adhered to or not, going fully circular for old floorings still requires a clean recycling flow, a good supply chain and a well thought out environmentally friendly production method. And the conditions are different per project and will always need a thorough assessment. However, testing this means that we are learning what it means to go fully circular.
Curious to see how this recycling process takes place? Watch the video below: