Working Toward a Circular Economy Through Disruptive Technology
[Editor's Note: Hugh Welsh, President & General Counsel of DSM North America, will be speaking at our 2017 Circular Economy Summit: From Aspiration to Implementation on the topic of disruptive technology and designing for circularity.]
Most often, when people think of disruptive technology their eyes turn to the sky and thoughts of high tech “rocket science.” Today, instead of looking up, lower your gaze down and follow your feet. Inevitably, at some point today you will notice you are standing on a very common product found in homes and offices buildings around the world, carpeting. The plush pile beneath your feet is an opportunity for disruption that will drastically change a well worn industry, largely unchanged since the Apollo Space program.
Niaga® is bringing to market technology that enables the production of a fully recyclable carpet by taking into account the regeneration of the materials in the process design, joining a nascent group of companies that are early adapters of the circular economy. This revolution in carpeting products is by made possible by a partnership between a Netherlands based technology start up Niaga® and DSM, a leader on the DOW Jones Sustainability Index. The DSM-Niaga® partnership is an example of the benefits that are realized when large corporations and small start-ups with similar values and visons for the planet join forces with a purpose in mind: Do Something Meaningful and impactful for the benefit of society.
In 2016, a whopping 4 billion pounds of carpet waste entered the solid waste stream in the US and those old carpets will stay in landfills for decades to come. The latex adhesives used in manufacturing make it nearly impossible to recycle. Making a truly recyclable carpet required re-engineering all the steps from beginning to end. Engineers used drastic simplification to reduce a complex set of inputs to pure materials, designed a simpler series of steps to create the components and adhere them together. This allowed for the design of a facile process to break the carpet apart to start at the beginning again so that there is no end to its utility.
Carpeting made with this forward-thinking technology has many advantages over traditional carpets made today. The greatest being, at the end of the carpets life cycle it can be re-made into a new carpet of the same size and of the same quality without using any virgin raw materials. The regenerated carpet needs 90% less energy to be produced and uses no water in the lamination process. Future proofing is inherent in the process, and possible new business models to be born from this disruptive technology face only the limit of imagination.
One of the primary advantages for consumers and installers alike is it is safer than carpeting made with latex, as polyester has enhance flame retardant properties, there are no VOC’s, and there is no dizzying new carpet smell. Another advantage is that it is lighter and more flexible than carpet that is currently on the market, making it less expensive to transport, easier to install and remove. But the best part, it is easier to clean. Who doesn’t want a carpet that doesn’t smell and is easier to clean?
If you are interested in accelerating progress toward a circular economy, consider joining us in June at the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Circular Economy Summit or tweet us your questions and thoughts.