Virtually every vendor here at Surfaces 2010 in Las Vegas has a green story to tell, many of them quite compelling. Flooring products are clearly on the cutting edge of the green movement. Many manufacturers have gone beyond merely using recycled content. They have developed technology to employ post-consumer waste--old carpets, soda bottles, drywall, and vinyl tiles--that would otherwise clog up landfills. More and more of them are substituting environmentally benign alternatives for caustic or toxic materials. And companies are much more transparent about their manufacturing processes.

This burgeoning green movement  among these manufacturers is clearly a response to customer demand, particularly among professionals. As builders and architects attempt to construct homes that meet green standards, they must question the materials used to make products and also how they are made. Depending on the answers, they may get points toward meeting green standards.

As a result, the green bar keeps rising. The bleeding edge is employing post-consumer waste, which often requires a new manufacturing process. Crossville debuted a new light-weight metal tile at the show, Urban Renewal, with 50% post-consumer recycled content. It also has begun a program to take back ceramic and porcelain tile, which it plans to reuse to make new tile products.

Foam Products made a splash with a new acoustical underlayment that's made with 30% to 40% recycled granulated rubber-tire crumbs. As with many other products launched at the show, this underlayment is made with an antimicrobial treatment that resists mold, mildew, and bacteria.

Even glazed porcelain tile is going green. Dal-Tile, for instance, introduced two new lines made with its OutStand technology that include an unspecified amount of post-consumer recycled glass. The lines--Color Scheme and Urban Tones--contain more than 60% recycled content, which is more than any other glazed porcelain tile in the industry, according to the company.

Many manufacturers now tout their factory processes when outlining their green credentials. Healthier Choice Premium Carpet Cushion, for instance, says its acoustical underlayments and carpet cushions are made in a “zero-landfill” facility, using more than 50% natural ingredients, including soybean oil.

Bon Ton Designs was one of several companies that issued an "environmental statement" in its marketing material, noting that it recycles unused clay scraps and seconds into future projects. It sells defective tiles to local artisans at bargain prices. Even the chairs and tables in its offices are secondhand. "Many of these items were headed to landfills before we found them."

If rubber tiles are what you are after, Johnsonite introduced Eco Naturals, a line of 20 rubber tiles that contain material that would otherwise be slated for disposal. The Chagrin Falls, Ohio, company sells the tiles in 12 solid and eight speckled patterns.

Carpet makers were among the first to incorporate post-consumer waste into their products, but they keep upping the ante. Beaulieu produces a Nexterra carpet tile line that's guaranteed to consist of at least 50% post-consumer content. A recycling plant affiliated with the company supplies the raw material made from about 1.6 billion plastic beverage bottles annually.

Mannington has been diverting drywall from the dumpster and converting it into tile since 2006. More recently, it has invested in a new process to produce a new vinyl tile line, Premium Tile, with 25% post-consumer content. Previously, manufacturers were only comfortable going up to 5%.

Boyce Thompson is editorial director of BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.
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