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Going Round Moving Forward

Closing the loop

Dealing with used flooring and product waste responsibly is the final step to creating a circular model for flooring. We have devised various strategies for dealing with waste to reuse as many materials as possible and minimise what goes to landfill.

Closing the loop | Going round, moving forward | Forbo Flooring Systems

Recycling and reusing products at the end of their life is the final piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating circular flooring systems.

Recycling & end of life | Going round, moving forward

There are five main aspects to be considered when designing circular flooring. In a recent blog post, we already looked at how we create floors that are long-lasting, easy to maintain and stand the test of time. In this post, we look at the end of a product’s life, which could be seen as the most important factor of circular design.

Laying the groundwork for recycling

Right from the initial design stages, we consider how we will be able to take back and recycle our floors after a long service life. It should be possible to recycle or reuse the entire product – whether the floor can be relaid in a different location or reprocessed to create a new product.

As we work towards this, we also need to find ways to reuse as much waste material as we possibly can. Forbo Flooring Systems currently offers a variety of products that contain recycled content, such as our Colorex Plus, which contains more than 70% recycled content.

We also create circular-ready flooring that’s designed with reuse and recycling in mind. Our loose-lay sheet flooring can be installed without adhesive, meaning that it can be easily taken up and installed elsewhere. Alternatively, it can be easily recycled, as the raw materials aren’t contaminated by non-recyclable adhesive. Forbo Flooring Systems was the first worldwide to offer this kind of circular loose-lay sheet flooring.

Collaboration for circular systems

Sometimes, the best ideas and solutions come from working together with others. We are keen collaborators and have executed multiple globally recognised circular flooring projects in partnership with other organisations, including the European Resilient Flooring Manufacturers' Institute, the Multilayer Modular Flooring Association and universities.

In reflection of our commitment to being innovators at the forefront of making circularity the norm in flooring, we are part of the EU-funded Circular Flooring project, which is working to create a circular recycling process for plasticized PVC from used flooring. One particular challenge of this is separating the PVC resin from legacy plasticisers so that the PVC can be reused.

Finally, we work together with local policy makers to set up Extended Producer Responsibilities for the flooring industry. For example, in 2020 we collaborated with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and Partners for innovation to help develop an Extended Producer Responsibility as part of their Moonshot project on circular floor coverings.

Big bag for vinyl take-back | Going round, moving forward |  Forbo Flooring Systems

Back to the floor recycling schemes

At present, some level of waste is still unavoidable when it comes to installing new floors. To combat this, we have developed multiple ‘Back to the floor’ recycling schemes to salvage as much reusable material as possible. In 2022, we were able to recycle 364 tons of flooring across various markets.

An excellent example of one of our ‘Back to the floor’ schemes in action is the large recycling project we are currently carrying out at a hospital in Charleroi, Belgium. A new building for the hospital is being fitted with a range of floors between October 2022 and May 2023, and we will be recycling all the offcuts used in installation thanks to our take-back scheme.

Recycling solutions

We have developed a recycling solution for every type of cutting waste, from textiles to linoleum. These are either recycled to create new flooring products or sent to third parties for recycling. We even have a way to recycle vinyl floor cuttings. They are collected into big bags at the workshop, transported to the factory, sorted, ground down into small pieces, and melted into a compound to be used in new flooring products. The material will then start a new life cycle of 20+ years until the end of the loop is reached and the recycling process starts again.

Of course, we have also considered the carbon footprint of our recycling schemes. While there are some carbon emissions involved, for example from transport and the energy used at the factory, overall these are less than from the traditional combustion of waste.

In this way, we are trying to create as much circularity as possible, even at the end of life for a product that is often thought of as non-recyclable.

cutting waste, gathered for recycling | Forbo Flooring Systems

Going round, moving forward

As demonstrated in this blog series, when creating our floors, we seek to incorporate circular principles by designing out waste, using raw materials as efficiently as possible and minimising the burden on our planet. We believe the future of flooring will be modular, loose-lay flooring systems like Modul’up and we will continue to expand our offerings in this field. We will also continue to develop new recycling systems and circular solutions as a company and with our various partners. Follow Forbo Flooring Systems on social media to keep up-to-date with our latest developments and innovations as we go round moving forwards.

If you want to know more about our 'Back to the floor' recycling programme and how you can get involved, please contact your local sales representative.