The environmental impact of the Belgian carpet supply chain

At the request of the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) a brief study was conducted on the environmental impact of the Belgian carpet supply chain, as part of the project “Partnership in the carpet chain to address sustainable resource use”. To this end a ‘rough and ready’ LCA study was carried out to gain insight into three issues:  

  1. The respective impact of various pile materials.
  2. The impact of various scenarios for waste disposal of the entire carpet, diversified for two frequently used pile materials.
  3. The relative impact of the various links in the carpet product chain.

The supply chain was modelled with the LCA software package Simapro, using the EcoInvent database and existing LCA studies, supplemented with data from the literature. For the extraction/production of pile materials a range of environmental impacts were assessed, while for the other links the climate impact expressed as cumulative energy demand (CED) was taken as a measure of overall environmental impact.

Some of the main conclusions:

  • Raw materials production contributes most to environmental impact. Product maintenance also accounts for a substantial share, but is preferable to no maintenance and premature disposal. Production processes come in the third place.
  • High-quality recycling does not always bring climate benefits. This is due to the complexity of the polymer being recycled as well as the complexity of the processing method. Future developments, such as improved recycling techniques and a shift in the overall energy supply to renewable sources may change this picture, however.