State of Green Business

Interface 1 Percent Shy of Zero Waste Operations

Interface 1 Percent Shy of Zero Waste Operations

Modular carpet manufacturer Interface sent less waste to landfill last year than in any previous year. Creating zero waste is one part of the company's Mission Zero commitment to eliminate its negative impacts on the environment by 2020.

Interface is planning to take a yearlong look at its progress now that it is a decade away from the end of Mission Zero. The company has 16 years worth of data on its emissions and its waste, energy, material and water use. It will spend the rest of 2010 releasing updates on results from 2009 and analyzing where it needs further investment and focus.

Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson initiated the company's Mission Zero efforts more than 15 years ago, a journey he chronicled in his book from last year, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist. Mission Zero includes goals on renewable energy, resource-efficient transportation, eliminating toxic substances from products, stakeholder engagement, and eliminating all emissions to air, land and water.

Starting off with waste reduction and reusing materials - two of the seven subjects of Mission Zero - Interface was able to reduce the amount of waste that it sent to landfill to the lowest amount yet. Of the 400 million pounds of raw material that it purchased in 2009, 3.4 million pounds (less than 1 percent) went to landfill.

Almost 7 million pounds of raw material was recycled to be reused again, and 9.6 million pounds went through a waste-to-energy process since nothing else could be done with it.

In 1996, the baseline year for the company's EcoMetrics, Interface sent 15 million pounds to landfills. The lowest amount the company previously sent to landfill was 4.4 million pounds, in 2002. Last year the company sent 4.9 million pounds.

Interface's waste elimination goal also includes getting rid of financial waste, like the cost of order errors, and its "closing the loop" goal is focused on redesigning processes and products in order to use recovered material and bio-based ingredients.

The company's program for reclaiming and reusing carpeting is called ReEntry 2.0, and last year it gathered 25 million pounds of used and post-industrial carpet. That recycled materials ends up in products like the Convert line of carpet from InterfaceFLOR.

Part of Interface's waste strategy success has come from employee ideas gathered through its QUEST (Quality Utilizing Employee Suggestions and Teamwork) program, which rewards employees that identify and reduce any form of waste. The program has helped Interface avoid $433 million in cumulative costs since 1995.