The Australian Resilient Flooring Association (ARFA) received $1 million in federal government funding from the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund to design the scheme, which have they called ResiLoop.
The challenge of recovering resilient flooring waste
Resilient flooring is a floorcovering or wallcovering made from materials that have some elasticity giving the product a degree of flexibility and/or cushioning. Each year, Australia sells around 22.3 million square metres of vinyl, linoleum, rubber sheet and tile forms of flooring, but there are currently no sustainable solutions for these products once they reach their end of life. While the products are designed to last for around 30 years, ARFA estimates 60,000 tonnes are disposed of each year, with virtually all of it ending up in landfill. That’s the equivalent of around 750 Boeing 737 airplanes worth of waste to landfill every year.
A lack of local recycling infrastructure and end markets for the recycled materials, as well as the high cost of collection and freight to transport the waste, are the main barriers to recycling flooring products. To address these challenges, ARFA has engaged participants across the resilient flooring supply chain, undertaken research, business modelling and recycling and reverse logistics field trials to test and refine various approaches in both residential and commercial sectors.
Ensuring profitable and stable end markets for recycled materials is critical to the success of product stewardship schemes. A key focus of ResiLoop will be building onshore recycling capacity by researching and developing ways to turn the recycled materials into new products. ARFA also acknowledges the business modelling for ResiLoop is highly dependent on the share of the market covered by participating members and the volume of waste recovered. Fortunately, after 12 months of consultation with industry stakeholders, more than 40 key players including manufacturers, retailers, and distributors have committed to the recycling scheme, signing a Collective Action Statement.
This commitment from key stakeholders in the resilient flooring supply chain reflects a willingness from the industry to drive sector-wide behaviour changes to ensure their products are put back into productive use. The scheme has a target of a 35 per cent recovery rate by its fourth year, focusing on waste generated in the east coast which accounts for 80 per cent of resilient flooring consumption in Australia.
How the scheme will work
ResiLoop is designed to operate exclusively through industry channels and is not intended to be a retail consumer-oriented scheme that is open to households (however, waste will be collected from residential sites).
Based on a global scan of other resilient flooring take-back schemes and stewardship initiatives, stakeholder consultation, field trials, and learnings at a local level from Australian product stewardship schemes, ARFA has designed a system to recover flooring waste from construction sites through a network of participating members. Waste accepted under the scheme will be collected by registered floor layers and installers, dropped off at designated collection points and then transported by contracted logistics providers to scheme-registered recyclers.
The recycling scheme will be funded by applying a levy per square metre uniformly across relevant products, paid by participating manufacturers and importers. ResiLoop is based on a hybrid product stewardship model, in which the scheme subsidises the collection and/or transportation of waste and will own collected material until its transfer or sale to a recycler.
To learn more about ResiLoop including how to become a participating member, visit ARFA’s website.