Starting With The End in Mind: Consider Installation and Disposal

Starting With The End in Mind: Consider Installation and Disposal

Second part of a two-part article on the best practices for what to do when flooring needs to be replaced.

By Naomi Millán, Senior Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: 9 Do's and Don'ts To Consider At The End Of Flooring's Life Pt. 2: This Page

5. Consider installation and deconstruction methods. How flooring is installed and uninstalled can affect its ability to be reused or recycled. Carpeting is easy because it comes right up without much effort. Wood flooring can be carefully deconstructed to allow it to be reused elsewhere. Free-floating resilient floors are likewise easy enough to bring up and reuse or recycle.

Where it gets tricky is with adhered floors. Adhering floors is necessary with rolling loads, but bringing them back up to reuse is probably not an option. When removing adhered floors for recycling, installations over concrete will have the best chance at success. If vinyl flooring is adhered to a wood substrate, splinters will inevitably come up with it, disqualifying it for recycling back into new vinyl flooring, says Costello.

6. Minimize disposal fees. There’s a lot of organizational and societal pressure around better waste management practices, but if facility managers still need to sell the idea of recycling flooring at their organization, one angle beyond “it’s the right thing to do” is that it can save money. VCT is 85 percent limestone, says Costello, which equates to about 1.5 pounds per square foot. Compared to other interior finishes, VCT is heavy. “When you’re paying to dispose of materials at the landfill, you’re usually paying based on weight,” says Costello. “By recycling your products, you have the opportunity to save money on disposal fees.”

It’s probably not going to be a huge amount of savings, but every penny counts, right? Martel says one large customer that recycles a lot found they were saving 3.5 cents a pound by recycling versus landfilling.

7. Satisfy codes and rating systems.  Another selling point for diverting flooring from landfill is that it can help meet green building rating system requirements. For example, LEED v4 has a prerequisite for a construction and demolition waste management plan which includes diverting at least five materials from the jobsite and spelling out exactly how the materials will be diverted, says Costello. “For LEED, they (facility managers) have typically diverted the heavy stuff: concrete and steel,” she says. “In LEED v4, they want to encourage project teams to divert other materials from the jobsite.”

In addition, codes such as the International Green Building Code and the California building code have minimal waste diversion requirements. “So people are looking for these avenues to divert these materials from their jobsites,” Costello says.

8. Start with the end in mind. Knowing that chemical makeup could impact a product’s recyclability, facility managers might do well to be aware of the composition of new flooring products. “You have to think when you buy that you want to recycle eventually,” says Martel.  “And what it’s made of might be interesting to know up front versus not looking at that at all and potentially getting a product that is not recyclable.”

Beyond chemical composition, facility managers should think about the manufacturer. Are they reputable? Do they have recycling programs in place?

9. Pick something long lasting in the first place. Reduce is the first big R-word to consider, and one way to reduce flooring consumption is to keep the existing floor as long as possible. “Durability is the main criteria for sustainability for a facility, as well as the chemistry of that product,” says Martel. Selecting a product that is durable and long-lasting depends on careful selection during the purchase process and considering lifetime costs instead of just upfront costs.

Collins points out that recycled content does not forcibly negatively impact the durability of a product. “The durability of the product is not compromised through recycled content, as long as it’s properly vetted and reassembled,” he says.

Some flooring will end up in landfill, but with over 30 percent of landfill today coming from renovation and demolition, it’s up to facility managers to move the needle on that figure. “It is important that we look at this industry in the built environment and do the best possible to change that proportion and really look at the options that we have for products in facilities,” says Martel. “Landfill should be the last option to look at.”
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