What is product Stewardship?
Product stewardship is an approach to managing the environmental impacts of a product from inception to end of life. Ultimately with the goal to eliminate the loss of the resource to landfill, essentially going from a linear model of Take. Make. Waste to a closed loop , supporting the movement towards a Circular Economy.
When closing the loop on a products life cycle, recycled content becomes an important metric to be aware of.
Now there's a few parts to the term "recycled content" where green washing creeps in. It is important to understand the differences in order to make the best decision as a consumer to support those business which are investing in our future by being product stewards.
The term "Pre-consumer" recycled content is simply manufacturing waste being brought back into the manufacturing process. Good in it's intention until you understand that sustainable manufacturing should eliminate waste from the process to begin with.
Then there is "Post-consumer" waste, this is what drives the circular economy.
But there are 2 forms of post-consumer waste sources that occur...
1.) Those materials that have become waste from a separate product stream
2.) Those that are from the product that it will then be re-manufactured into, this option is called "closed-loop".
The first appears to be a good solution but in reality is a short-sighted solution which shifts the global burden of waste onto the next generation.
Let's use PET plastic drink bottles as an example.
Frequently used in carpet now, PET plastic drink bottles go through a process of being melted down and re-manufactured but through this process the structural integrity of the plastic polymers is diminished and therefore the carpet is unable to be recycled at the end of its short "on the floor" life.
Ultimately this process is shifting the landfill burden of this plastic stream from overseas to New Zealand. This down-cycling process is detrimental to our environment and shifts the waste conundrum to New Zealand, an island nation unable to cope with the current level of landfill burden.
In an country where we value and benefit from our "clean-green" impression the world has of us, products like this should be banned from entering. Only those that have verified closed loop end-of-life solutions should be welcomed if we are to meet our waste and emissions targets for a better future.
How is Inzide a Product Steward?
Inzide is currently the only Ministry for Environment, Product Stewardship Certified Flooring Supplier in New Zealand.
Meaning, the Carpet Tile and Luxury Vinyl Tile products from Interface which we sell in the New Zealand have high recycled content and are 100% recyclable into new flooring at the end of the 15+year warranty period. In 2021 we were re-certified for the next 7 years to meet the Ministry for Environments requirements to be certified as active Product Stewards.
To achieve this we work closely with both A&D and contractors within the building industry to recover "old" Interface flooring when it is uplifted and return it to Interface ,the manufacturer where one of two things will happen;
If it is still in "good" condition it will go into a re-use program to live out many more years on the floor before it can then be recycled. However if it is deemed to be at the "end of life" it is then stripped back to the material layers and re-manufactured into high quality, commercial grade carpet tiles for another 15+ years on the floor.
Recycled and re-used 516 tonnes of carpet tile*
*2023 metrics shown. These are currently under review by Toitu.
In 27 years of supplying sustainable flooring solutions we have7
To find out more about Inzide's Re-Entry Product Stewardship scheme
We encourage others to join us as Product Stewards
Inzide was a member of The Sustainable Business Network for over a decade.
Supporting their initiatives many times over the years, our Managaing Director, Steve Aschebrock provided his time as a recycling expert on their various event panels. In 2017 SBN created their circular economy accelerator program (with sponsorship from Inzide). And in July 2020 the government identified six “priority products” in its new environmental policy, announced by Eugenie Sage as an outcome from this programme. The spotlight finally is on product stewardship.
While carpet and flooring is not yet a priority product, Inzide has been actively recycling Interface carpet tile we supply to the New Zealand market for over a decade, diverting hundreds of tonnes of carpet tile in that time from landfill and better yet, back into new carpet tile through the Interface Re-Entry scheme, below is a short video about why product stewardship is beneficial.