How we prove Recork flooring is environmentally friendly

Since we launched Recork – an incredibly sustainable cork flooring range – we’ve received a lot of questions from potential customers about how we prove our sustainability claims.

We’re really encouraged by these questions, and we see them as a positive sign that people are seriously considering the sustainability credentials of the products they choose for their homes and workplaces. They aren’t prepared to believe unsubstantiated claims or to accept greenwashing, which is great news for our planet.

In this post we’ll explain a little more about the action’s we’ve taken so far to prove the sustainability of cork flooring in general and Recork in particular. We hope this gives you the confidence to invest in a flooring solution that really does tackle climate change head on.

It all starts with the EPD

An EPD, or Environmental Product Declaration, is an official report that communicates transparent and comparable information about the environmental impact of a particular product. It can be used in building sustainability assessment schemes like BREEAM and LEED. An EPD is usually commissioned by product manufacturers, but must be independently assessed, and third party certified to ensure its integrity.     

At the heart of any EPD is a lifecycle assessment (LCA) that evaluates the environmental performance of a product throughout its entire lifecycle.  

EPD Ecolabel

Recork’s lifecycle assessment

An LCA is a complete environmental analysis based on internationally recognised standards such as ISO Standard 14040 and EN 15804. It assesses a range of elements that could impact a product’s environmental footprint. These might include Global Warming Potential from a variety of factors, acidification potential, depletion of mineral resources and fossil fuels, ozone depletion, and water scarcity.

One of the most important aspects of the Recork LCA was the product’s carbon footprint assessment. This measures the amount of carbon dioxide, or CO2, each square metre of cork flooring produces throughout its lifetime. Based on the impact category ‘climate change’ the carbon footprint indicates Recork’s global warming potential in accordance with IPCC 2007.

To calculate Recork’s carbon footprint, a cradle-to-grave analysis was conducted, starting with the extraction of raw materials and carrying right through to the product end-of-life. Some of the lifecycle stages assessed as part of the analysis included:

Product stage

  • Provision of raw materials
  • Transport of raw materials
  • Resource consumption during manufacture
  • Packaging of product
  • Emissions generated by the factory
  • Processing of waste generated during manufacture  

Construction stage

  • Transport from the factory to the installation site
  • Consumables and energy required during installation
  • Processing of waste generated during installation

Use stage

  • Product maintenance

End-of-life stage

  • Transport to the end-of-life processing facility
  • Incineration and landfill disposal

Following this cradle-to-grave lifecycle analysis, Recork’s carbon footprint was calculated to be 0.68 kg CO2eq/1m2, which is exceptionally low compared with the majority of flooring products. With almost 75% of carbon emitted at the end-of-life stages (ie. uplifting and disposing of the flooring), Recork’s carbon footprint can potentially become negative by simply leaving it on the floor, which is why it is engineered to last.  

Moving on to carbon balance

Carbon footprint isn’t the only figure we use to prove the sustainability of our cork flooring. There is also the more representative figure of carbon balance. This takes into account the carbon that is sequestered by the cork oak forests, or Montado, where the raw material used to make Recork is harvested. Harvested cork oak trees absorb considerably more carbon than unharvested trees, and the Portuguese Montado, where the cork oaks are cultivated, captures more than 4 million tonnes of carbon each year.

This carbon can legitimately be factored into carbon balance calculations for cork-based products as the Montado is cultivated solely for the purpose of cork production. The cork is primarily harvested for bottle stoppers, but the waste material from this process, along with cork from early harvests, is used to produce flooring and other products.

Flooring for a Circular Economy
Flooring for a Circular Economy

The carbon balance for Recork is calculated using carbon footprint data from our EPD combined with data for carbon uptake by the cork oak forests. Again, this analysis is carried out and certified by an independent third-party assessor. The carbon balance of Recork can reach up to -186 kg CO2eq/m2, which means each square metre of flooring could remove 186 kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during its lifetime

Cork is a relatively recent addition to the flooring industry, and we’re only just beginning to understand the incredible potential products such as Recork have to combat global warming. We want to be as transparent as possible about our sustainability credentials, and we’re more than happy to answer customers’ questions as they consider Recork as an environmentally friendly alternative to more traditional flooring products.  

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