Our impact on climate change
At Balta, our activities in the production of floor coverings impact the environment through consumption of petrochemical-based polymers, use of non-renewable energy and output emissions, contributing to our overall carbon footprint. For some years we have been making progress in reducing our impact on the climate through a series of positive actions in materials, product innovation, production, goods transportation and business activities.
Some of these activities, such as materials and production innovation, are reliant on the progress of innovation and technology. They remain key objectives on which actions can be taken when the technology becomes viable.
In addition to the activities relating to the production of carpet in Belgium, Turkey and the USA, we have also identified areas for further improvement and are in the process of planning their implementation. These include research into shifting transport modes to greener alternatives and the utilisation of inland waterways to the strategic port of Antwerp for inbound materials and outbound finished goods.
Reducing our impact on climate change
We have set out a series of goals that will help us focus on the reduction of our carbon footprint across all our activities and finished products:
- Increase the recycled content in raw materials
- Develop products that are easy to recycle
- Reduce water consumption 30% by 2030 (vs 2018)
- Lower overall CO2 emissions 30% by 2030 (vs 2018)
- 100% production waste recycling by 2030 (vs 2018)
- Traffic goods by alternatives to road
- Reduce waste and make waste recyclable
A 12-month strategic study in Belgium and Turkey to understand the capital investment needed to achieve our 2030 targets started in January 2020. It covers all products, processes and technologies. An additional study on the use of green energy is also ongoing, with Bentley already implementing improvements.
As a business, these key objectives form the basis of our positive actions towards the environment as we work to become a more sustainable producer of floor coverings for the benefit of all our stakeholders.
The factors, successes and challenges to be better for the planet
We have recognised that climate change is a significant risk which faces us all, but Balta is also subject to risks related to manufacturing which have the potential to provide a challenge in our goal to reduce our overall carbon footprint. Some of these relate to the limitations imposed by existing technology, while others are indicative of exposure to increasingly stringent regulations from the European Union. These current and potential challenges are:
The reduction of water and CO2 emissions is driven by process change with, as yet, undefined technology. We are establishing relationships with several partners in 2020 to investigate possible solutions to this challenge and began an internal study at the beginning of the year.
It is also a question of available technology for the development of floor coverings that are easier to recycle. For this to be realised without the degradation in performance or product longevity, new chemistries will be required. Again, along with our own internal developments, we are establishing relationships with several partners in 2020 to find solutions.
Although we have already developed mono-polymer rugs that can be easily recycled in processes that require less energy consumption, the European Union currently doesn’t have many recycling centres for carpets (these are available in the USA), and there are few facilities for the recycling of the separated polymers. Without sufficient capacity for the separation of carpets into the different components to allow for the recycling of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PP (polypropylene), we cannot reduce our impact through end-of-life recycling.
The EU could impose a specification on new products to improve recyclability or add CO2 taxes. If either of these are different from manufacturing regulations in other countries, they could leave us at a short-term competitive disadvantage. Our commitment to making products more recyclable and to reduce our energy consumption by 30% by 2030 (vs 2018), should go some way in mitigating these risks.
Through initiatives in product, manufacturing, transportation and other activities, we are making positive inroads into becoming a more sustainable manufacturer:
- Optimising water in Tielt and Oudenaarde production sites
- Selective collection of waste for re-use and reduction projects
- Investment in internal recycling of polypropylene ongoing
- Development of a polyolefin backing for carpet tiles
- Development of mono-polymer wall-to-wall carpets
- Production of mono-polymer rugs that are easier to recycle
- Production of recycled content rugs that are fully recyclable
- Production of a jute substitute for weft yarn in woven carpets and rugs
- Adiabatic cooling for yarn production
- Member of EBO - Belgium’s voluntary Energy Management Covenant
- Studies in renewable energy and energy reduction
- Carpet and carpet tile recycling studies
- Realisation of extensive energy reduction plan at Bentley production site
- The use of Oekotex (Balta home) and Cradle-2-Cradle (Bentley) environmental certification
- Moving from road transportation to barge to and from Antwerp and Zeebrugge
- Water treatment plant turned into a 12,000m3 rainwater store for farms and the fire service in Oudenaarde
- Road improvements to ease congestion in Sint-Baafs-Vijve, home to our HQ
- Annual litter and clean-up campaigns in the local areas of all Belgian production sites
How we monitor our impact on the planet
Every month, for each plant and at group level, we monitor key factors that affect our impact on the environment. Through this data, we can plan effective measures to improve activities in relations to our key goals.
By measuring everything from the CO2 emissions of our plants, to the petrol and diesel used by our company car fleet to the percentage of containers we move by barge, we are constantly receiving an accurate picture of our impact. Every month, we measure:
- Consumption of gas and electricity
- CO2 emissions
- Total percentage of recycled content used in products
- Total waste and percentage of waste recycled
- Total number of kilometres covered by internal transport
- Consumption and emissions of company car fleet (Belgium only)
- Percentage of containers sent by barge and CO2 savings
- Number of containers in Belgium, Turkey and the USA with return freight
We also analyse our emissions and nuisances to our immediate communities, as well as our consumption outside of energy:
- Waste, soil, air, radiation, water emissions
- Sound, odour, dust, vibration, traffic, heat and visual nuisances
- Raw material and space consumption
Combined, these key performance indicators are helping Balta to take the necessary short term and long-term steps needed to play our role in the protection of our planet. With clear goals to work to and awareness of the challenges and risks facing us, we are able to effect genuine change in becoming a more sustainable floor coverings producer.