Recycling post-consumer wood flooring
Closing the loop on flooring is vital to recovering high quality materials for use in new products, and accelerating our transition to the circular economy. We successfully transformed 1,000 m2 of solid oak parquet in 2018 to create a unique wood flooring – Fenix – with a wear layer made entirely of recycled oak. This is a great step forward for us in our journey to increase the volume of recycled materials we use in our products. Importantly, it also helps to conserve natural resources and creates energy savings, compared to sourcing virgin oak.
Innovation inspired by the circular economy
To make our new regenerated multi-layer wood flooring a reality, we conducted a pilot project to explore the viability of integrating wood from used floors, and determine the best approach. First, we formed a partnership with sustainable construction leader Bouygues Construction. The company was engaged in a circular project to reuse materials from the decommissioned 3 Suisses industrial site near Lille, France, and give them a new lease of life in a pioneering eco-development known as the Maillerie. The project is reclaiming some ten hectares of the site to create a neighbourhood centred around its residents’ needs, lifestyle and wellbeing, promoting social and cultural connections, sustainable transport and efforts to protect biodiversity. This starts with an innovative construction site inspired by the circular economy.
The buildings for demolition represent some 30,000 tonnes of concrete, 4,500 light fixtures, many kilometres of shelving, and 10,000 m² of oak flooring. In complete compliance with legal requirements, all the key materials are carefully identified and their future use considered before being stored ready to be given to charities or companies able to give them a second lease of life. We agreed to take 1,000 m2 of solid oak flooring, 23mm thick, with a view to testing how we could successfully reprocess and reengineer it into a new wood flooring.
“As soon as we heard about Bouygue’s enterprising circular building project, we knew that we wanted to take on the challenge of recycling the building’s solid oak flooring,” says Tarkett’s circular economy manager Elodie Jupin.
“Helping to conserve natural resources by sourcing recycled materials and closing the loop on flooring are vital components of our sustainability strategy and circular economy ambitions.”
Closing the loop on wood flooring
“From a technical perspective, this collaboration also presented a real opportunity for us to test and demonstrate the feasibility of recycling wood flooring in our manufacturing process,” explains Matthias Lewark, research and development specialist at Tarkett.
Firstly, we removed any nails, metal or wood affected by moisture from the parquet. We then applied a special process to convert the remaining oak wood into a wear layer, adapted to our new Twirl design.
“We created the design with a view to maximising our use of recycled raw materials, while projecting a unique feeling reminiscent of classic parquet designs,” explains Lewark. “We named the new floor Fenix, after the mythological bird symbolising rebirth."
The first Fenix floor was installed in spring 2019 at a new office block in Stockholm, owned by AMF Fastigheter, one of the largest real estate companies in Sweden.
The installation was achieved at our ‘Natural Bond’ exhibition at the 2020 Stockholm Furniture Fair.
Taking wood floor recycling to the next level
Encouraged by this achievement, we have conducted a second pilot project, this time with the wear layer recycled from a sports hall in Norway. We removed nails, metal and parts damaged by moisture from the old parquet before transforming it into a new wear layer. We also added a soft white coloured hard wax oil treatment to enhance the beauty of the wood material. The recycled flooring is designed to be used just as much as the old original flooring.
“With the Fenix project, we are demonstrating that it is possible to think circular even with renewable raw materials,” concludes Dag Duberg, Nordic Sustainability Manager. “There’s a growing interest among our customers for wood flooring featuring recycled materials, and we are now exploring new opportunities to conduct other pilot projects.”
Tarkett is securing sources of post-use wooden flooring for recycling in two ways. Firstly, we are working with installation companies. Secondly, we are sourcing one-off bulk loads of post-use flooring from major refurbishment projects, such as the 3 Suisses initiative.
“By finalising these pilot projects, we have not only learned a lot about circular economy opportunities within wood industry, but also how interested our customers are by circular offerings,” concludes Category Manager Jukka Vornanen. “We are therefore scaling up volumes of these floorings in key countries.”
Read more about how Tarkett is closing the loop on flooring.