Contract Flooring Journal (CFJ) the latest news for flooring contractors

HomeThought LeadershipA matter ofsustainable practice

A matter ofsustainable practice

Westcotes takes a proactive approach to sustainability in an industry which is making ever-greater strides in changing the way it works, says Carl Harper.

FOR Westcotes Flooring Company, material selection and purchasing are the areas of biggest impact when it comes to the environment. When working through main contractors, a lot of the projects’ floor finishes are fully specified prior to engaging with the main contractor and actually starting onsite.

But even in these situations, flooring contractors still have influence with regard to other items such as floor protection, DPMs, latex smoothing compounds and the adhesives used, so they can opt for low VOC products.

Westcotes also targets a significant amount of end-user work, in which the company can specify what flooring it fits, and has the option, for example, to go for looselay fast-fit systems, reducing the need for adhesives – making the products easier to uplift and easier to recycle.

‘We do a lot of work directly for schools and the education sector in general,’ says Carl Harper, managing director, Westcotes.

‘Many schools nowadays can make their own choices about these things, so that means we can get involved with the specification, assisting and guiding the school where necessary. For them it’s often more about colour and aesthetics than anything else, to match the walls and the rest of the teaching environment. They’ll often leave it to us as the professionals to specify the exact products that are going to be used.’

Whatever the type of contract, the contractor can generally choose the type of floor protection used. Westcotes mainly use Protec RE Board for the day-to-day temporary floor protection for their jobs, which is made from 60% post-consumer waste, and it’s then recycled again after use.

They’re also involved with various takeback schemes such as Recofloor, Forbo’s takeback scheme, F Ball’s recycling scheme and Protec’s closed loop recycling scheme.

‘For example on a job we’re on at the moment, we’re using Polyflor vinyl, so we’re using Recofloor, founded by Polyflor and Altro,’ says Carl. ‘We have big lockable bins onsite to take back all our Polyflor off-cuts. We also participate in the F Ball recycling scheme, so all the F Ball buckets go into that bin. We’re also utilising the Protec closed loop recycling scheme, they take away the floor protection at the end of the job for recycling. So all those three elements are being diverted away from landfill.

‘Most contaminated material still does go to landfill, and I believe the main contractors need to be more committed to getting this material recycled. What we also need is further advances in technology to enable this to be properly separated. There are processes being developed to do this, but there’s more work to do. The main contractors have to play a bigger part in making improvements, especially with regard to segregation of waste, whether its cardboard, timber or plastic.

‘The reality is we’d make more money just by dumping our waste material in a skip, rather than paying Recofloor and other companies who recycle to sort it out. We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do, but in my view main contractors need to get more involved and support the initiatives available and drive it from the top down.’

With regard to its own business operations, Westcotes has had three charging points installed at one of its offices and now has eight hybrid/electric vehicles, making up a third of its fleet, and has a plan to get more. This has happened in the past three years. There are tax benefits of course, but the company says it’s done this mainly because it’s the right thing to do. It’s also installed charging points and incentivises car sharing among staff and fitters to reduce its carbon footprint.

‘Unfortunately electric vans are still too expensive for most companies. Hopefully the technology will improve though in the coming years and the price will come down. Also the sites need to have charging points of course. At the moment we’re generally finding the hybrids are the most practical vehicles for us.’

Westcotes is also keen to trial new products where these offer a sustainability benefit.

‘With regard to new technology, my sense is adhesive-free magnetic flooring systems are now gaining some traction, as some carpet manufacturers like Shaw and Forbo are coming on board with them. In the past year we have started using this technology as well. For example, a big benefit in, for example, the fit-out sector is it doesn’t contaminate the raised access floor, which is a significant cost benefit to the client. It might be more expensive initially than some adhesives, but when you consider the cost of the raised access floor which might be a £50-60 asset to the client, it really does make sense in the long term. We’re now using looselay systems from various manufacturers, including looselay LVTs.’

Westcotes are using non-solvent based products where possible, and using mainly water-based smoothing compounds to help reduce and eliminate the use for large numbers of plastic bottles. Carl Harper refers to a recent hospital job of 8,000sq m, which would’ve required 1,600 plastic bottles. This was eliminated by the choice to use a water-based product. Although the bottles could have been recycled, it is still better not to require them in the first place.

‘Main contractors love the idea of sustainability,’ he says. ‘They’re all saying we need to be doing more, so they can tell their clients what they’re doing. It’s the same for manufacturers. The issue as ever is who is going to pay for it, because there are additional costs associated with some of these things. The people who are pushing it aren’t always willing to step up and share the cost.

‘When it comes to dealing with waste product, we could go and put all our vinyl waste in a skip, which costs us nothing as this is paid for by the main contractor, but to do it right and recycle I have got to pay for the relevant products, bins and bags to be delivered and collected. At the moment I would say eight out of 10 main contractors just want us to put the flooring waste in a skip because they don’t want to pay for it to be recycled, even though we’ve demonstrated it’s actually cheaper to recycle and divert from landfill, but in their eyes it’s more hassle.

‘I feel if there was financial support and a mutual desire to work more sustainably, together with better communication and education on the subject, more people would do this correctly. By working together in that way, we would achieve a better result.’
Carl Harper is managing director at Westcotes Flooring Company

Please click to view more articles about

Stay Connected




Popular articles