Pave the way to sustainable carpets

Designing alternatives to increase the sustainability of the Dutch carpet industry

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The Dutch carpet tile industry is one of the most polluting and unsustainable industries worldwide, with a waste product that is only fit for landfilling. This thesis set out to model the industry and conclude on effective sustainability increasing measures. It was identified that the creation of one carpet tile (0.25 square meters) causes a global warming equivalent of 4.9 kilograms CO2-equivalent units and requires up to 78 megajoule of energy. With the current material composition of a carpet tile, no fully sustainable supply chain can be achieved. The recycling of these materials is simply too costly and too difficult. This makes for the downcycling of end-of-lifecycle (EOL) carpets into building insulation material the most effective form of disposal, only achieving a 31% reduction in environmental effects at best. This is a far cry from the envisioned full circularity by the carpet industry. In order to achieve a fully sustainable carpet industry, a shift in problem ownership is required. Currently, the consumer and government are paying for the inability of the carpet industry to produce a carpet that is (fully) recyclable. Once a carpet is sold, the costs of disposal are the responsibility by whoever buys the carpet, and the environmental costs affect welfare and are thus a governmental problem. This study advices a product-service system, where through leasing contracts and deposit systems, the carpet manufacturer remains the owner of a carpet at its EOL. Through this system, the carpet manufacturer is incentivized to produce a carpet that is more easily recyclable, or to establish a market and create demand for the EOL product. This study set out to discover how the current generation of carpets can be diverted from landfills and be used to establish a sustainable industry. It can be concluded that recycling cannot be achieved, and downcycling needs further exploration as it requires the establishment of a new market. Thus, it is concluded that the current generation of carpets is unfit to create any sort of sustainable supply chain, and efforts are best invested in the establishment of a new type of carpet which is more easily recyclable.