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How far can we go?

We can’t afford to produce low-quality products with high lifecycle costs where flooring has to be replaced after a relatively short period and waste product is sent to landfill, says Paul Vickers.

THERE’s no question construction is one of the biggest polluting industries in the country, with the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) estimating the UK built environment is currently responsible for 25% of UK greenhouse gas emissions (buildings and infrastructure).

While built environment emissions have reduced by 30% since 2010 according to the UKGBC, this is largely owing to a huge decarbonisation of the electricity grid in recent years, rather than rapid changes in production techniques and replacement of raw materials with recycled content.

However, this is changing, and more and more companies in the flooring sector are realising old carbon-intensive business models are unsustainable going forward – not only are they high cost over the long run, but they’re also ethically unsustainable in the eyes of consumers.

Architects and clients are demanding flooring companies and manufacturers change with the time and react to the climate crisis – not just with words but with real actions.

Here at ARDEX and BAL, our entire team is committed to reducing carbon emissions – with sustainability being a key pillar in all our processes – particularly new product development.

It’s absolutely crucial flooring companies lower lifecycle costs through high-performance products with lifetime guarantees. No longer can we afford to produce low-quality products, with high lifecycle costs – where flooring is needing to be replaced after a relatively short period of time and waste product sent to landfill.

Research and development have a key role to play at major flooring manufacturers in innovating to ensure less waste onsite with extended product working times but rapid hardening for fast-track completion.

Innovations have also been made allowing less products to be required on projects, as well as highyield products, plus developing products that have increased performance using recyclable content.

At BAL and ARDEX we have several products which use high volumes of recycled materials. For example, our BAL Single Part Fast Flex S2 tile adhesive uses rubber crumb from recycled car tyres.
We also use recycled fillers and fibres in several of our adhesives, levellers, and waterproofing systems.

A challenge does remain though in consistency of recycled raw material and some issues with performance. We have to be careful as a business not to sacrifice product performance purely to increase the percentage of recycled raw material in our products. That’s why we ‘test, test and test’ to ensure only the best quality recycled raw materials are used in our products and systems.

The role of procurement officers like myself is also vital in sourcing localised raw materials to reduce carbon emissions from external sources such as transport.

One area where the flooring industry has made huge progress is in the use of more environmentally friendly packaging. More and more packaging suppliers are coming forward with useable and durable packaging made from high quality recycled content. While not all packaging is acceptable and usable – the quality is certainly improving year-on-year.

Here at ARDEX and BAL we’ve committed to eliminating ‘virgin’ plastic in all our bottles and buckets. As recently as end of May 2022, nearly 60% of all buckets and bottles containing ARDEX products were made from post-consumer resin plastic – made from recycled plastic which can be reprocessed into a resin, then widely recycled following use.

We’ve also began trialling the use of stretch-hood film using recycled content and have achieved some success. Not only does this reduce waste, but it also expands on the company’s commitment to produce truly recyclable products

Reducing scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions
ARDEX and BAL have a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 (Scope 1 and 2). In order to achieve this, it was first important to understand and quantify the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by both companies.

Over the past few years, we’ve worked with Achilles Toitu Envirocare to achieve ISO 14064:1 (otherwise known as CEMARS) for the quantifying and reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and removals.

We’re the only company in the flooring sector to achieve this standard in the UK measuring GHG emissions through this internationally recognised standard.

This standard will assist us by providing accurate data to assess the impact of the various initiatives to be adopted in their efforts to deliver our ambitious carbon neutral plans.

While this helps us formulate policies and initiatives to deliver reductions to Scope 1 and 2, it still leads us to the question of tackling Scope 3 emissions.

Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities beyond the control of the company – and are indirect emissions from our supply chain – as well as emissions generated by delivering products to our customers, such as freight emissions and employee commuting.

Having said that, companies are wising up to the need to address these issues. While it’s very difficult to reduce freight and distribution emissions – we can reduce emissions from activities such as business travel.

Here at ARDEX/BAL we’re introducing several initiatives including plans to bring in electric or biofuel company vehicles to cut down on emissions from car travel – plus encouraging the use of trains for longer distance commutes.

Note though that most of our high-volume, high-value materials are energy intensive and the CO2 to produce is far greater than the CO2 element to ship and deliver.

Looking forward
Companies have a responsibility to plan for a carbon neutral or net zero in line with the global 1.5deg C future target.

It goes without saying most companies in the flooring sector will have sustainability roadmaps in place, ensuring they can meet their sustainability goals, while also ensuring businesses stay competitive and profitable.

We all have a responsibility to meet this target, and it can start with the low-hanging fruit of energy, waste, fuel, water, and onsite recycling – working within existing systems to reduce consumption of precious resources.

However more ambitious projects are required in the industry if we’re really to reverse the climate crisis. Companies can and are working towards a fully closed-loop circular economy – where bags, bottles and buckets are brought back to the manufacturer to ensure ALL packaging is fully recycled after use.

But can the industry go further? Can we truly work together to not only meet the net zero target but actually work to reverse the climate disaster – cutting emissions, investing in low energy intensive technologies, phasing out fossil fuels in our products and other raw materials which we’re harvesting from the planet?

These are certainly areas we’re constantly looking at. Can others follow suit?
Paul Vickers is UK contracts and procurement manager at ARDEX/BAL and ARDEX Group interim corporate unit leader for sustainability

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