Recycling Washable Rental Mats
The EU Green Deal / Recycling
Every company needs to look at recycling and promote the use of recycled content.
When looking at mats one can say this is a closed loop. At the end of their rental service life mats can be easily collected from laundries around Europe in order to recycle them. There is no need to setup a collection system as mat manufacturers know where their mats are being sold to.
What is being done to make recycling possible ?
Currently we see very little going on. Mat manufacturers seem to be waiting (but they might be working on something we don’t know), laundries are looking for solutions but don’t have the knowledge needed to make things going.
When looking at yarns being used on mats Aquafill is offering their econyl yarn. Econyl is made from recycled nylon from different sources. The econyl system is a system that brings back old nylon into carpolactam, the building block of nylon 6. This process also removes all color in the yarn. New nylon 6 can be made from caprolactam.
Another Italian yarn manufacturer is Radici, using their Renycle system to mechanically reuse nylon. This doesn’t bring back the nylon into it’s building block, nor does it remove color. up to 50% is used in new yarns.
No one has been able te separate yarn / primary backing and rubber in an economical way (as far as we know today).
We know that Aquafill and Radici are using recycled nylon in new yarn. When looking at the mat there are 3 components.
Primary backing, onto which the carpet yarn is tufted
Rubber, NBR rubber in which the carpet yarn/primary backing is vulcanised.
When looking at the rental mat market we see the following use or different fibers: Nylon 6 (Standard and printed mats) / Nylon 6.6 (printed mats), Polyester, Polyester/Cotton.
We estimate that around 65% of current standard mats are using Nylon 6.
Nylon 6 is the most interesting market as this has the biggest volume and is already being recycled.
When it will be possible to separate yarn and rubber the current many mats are not ready / ideal for recycling !
When separated, we will have rubber and carpet yarn / primary backing as 2 materials. The problem is the current primary backing used by most manufacturers. As far as we know most are using a 100% polyester non woven, but even when a 70% nylon primary backing is used, the used mat stream, can contain a mix of both. This is difficult to check.
When separated the separated material will have around 18% polyester and 82% nylon. (can be lower if some 70$ primary backing material is used)
The system that aquafill is using to recycle this nylon can only work when the polyester content is maximum 8%. Although 100% nylon can be mixed to waste streams containing a higher % polyester this is not ideal.
Also the mechanical reuse (Radici), extrusion of material having a 18% polyester content will make it impossible / difficult to use the separated material. The melting point of polyester is higher than nylon 6.
The primary backing used by most mat manufacturers has to be preplaced by a material have a far lower polyester content. This material has been available for a long time and some have used it in the past. Colbond is a non woven primary backing made from polyester and nylon 6.
In order to make future recycling possible mat manufacturers should switch to using colbond as soon as possible. This will mean that current mats will become around 0.1 to 0.15 euro per m2 more expensive.
Only when this switch has been made, it will make future recycling far more easy.
Bob Mats is currently running lab trials to see if we can separate yarn and rubber. goals is to have a yarn that can be recycled into new yarn.
For the rubber we are looking at different options. Given the current way of washing and drying mats no recycled content can be used on the rubber of new mats as this will bring down quality and lifetime. For domestically washable mats some recycled content can be used but companies need to be aware that many rental mats will still have phthalate based plasticizers in them.
In the end we believe that when looking at recycling we can work together with laundries to setup a system to recycle mats. In order to be economical we need volume to justify investments in equipment to make recycling possible at an economical cost.
Interested in a Solution ?
We can give more info on recycling, how to optimize the product for future recycling and solutions we are working on.