One step closer to producer responsibility for floor coverings
Manufacturers and importers of floor coverings recognize the added value of extended producer responsibility (EPR) for floor coverings. As long as the introduction is a gradual transition process and applies to all types of floor coverings, a voluntary EPR seems a good way to meet the Dutch and European circular targets for floor coverings. This emerges from a survey carried out by Partners for Innovation on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and Rijkswaterstaat.
At the end of 2019, a member of the Dutch Parliament asked in a motion to investigate whether extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a suitable means of promoting the circularity of carpet and other floor coverings. For products such as electronics and electric consumer appliances, producers are already responsible that their products are collected and processed responsibly at the end of their lifespan. Consumers pay a disposal fee and the sector pays a waste management fee to a waste fund. This works well.
An EPR appears to be a valuable tool for floor coverings as well, according to discussions with industry associations and 25 companies, including IKEA, Interface, Tarkett, Forbo, Mosa and Unilin. The stakeholders endorse the need for the transition to a climate-neutral and circular economy, and the majority acknowledge the role that a (voluntary) EPR can play in this process.
Level playing field
An EPR should take into account the specific circumstances in which the floor covering industry has to operate. The floor covering industry is a European, highly competitive industry. The sector comprises a wide variety of product groups: carpet (broadloom, tiles and other carpets), laminate, parquet, resilient floors (vinyl, linoleum, cork, rubber), and ceramic and natural stone floor tiles.. These are reasonably interchangeable products for consumers and the business market. In order to maintain a level playing field, an EPR must therefore apply to all product groups. European coordination is necessary, in terms of the design and timing of the introduction of an EPR system.
Incentive to invest
Floor coverings consist of a combination of several different materials, making recycling very complex. There are voluntary initiatives, in particular for the recycling of carpet and vinyl flooring, but the scale of these activities is limited. The government should therefore formulate clear (binding) goals to encourage producers to make their products more sustainable and to stimulate the recycling industry to invest in large-scale processing. The potential environmental benefit of a EPR scheme is considerable, depending on the targets set and the product group.
Following in the footsteps of other EPRs, producers and importers should pay a waste management fee for floor coverings they place for the first time on the Dutch market. This fee must cover the costs involved in collecting, sorting and recycling floor covering waste and stimulate circulair innovations.
The stakeholders indicate that it is crucial not to start large-scale collection of floor coverings too soon, as long as recycling infrastructure has not yet been built up. Large quantities of unprocessable waste will then be collected at high cost, without the existence of an outlet. By investing in pilot installations for the recycling of the various types of flooring in the short term, it will be possible to scale up to industrial processing of the various types of flooring within a few years.
Most stakeholders prefer a voluntary EPR system with front runners taking the lead. If insufficient progress has been made, an EPR for floor coverings should be set out in (European) legislation.
Download the full report (in Dutch, including an English summary)