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Shaw Improves Water Use, Carpet Recycling

Shaw Industries Group lowered both its water intensity and post-industrial waste intensity last year, while greenhouse gas intensity held steady, according to the carpet manufacturer’s third annual corporate sustainability report.

Shaw, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, is the world’s largest carpet manufacturer, with more than $4 billion in annual sales.

It reported that its post-industrial waste intensity continued to fall last year, down from 0.112 to 0.109 pounds per pound of finished product, en route to a goal of 0.070 in 2012. Post-industrial waste intensity does not include waste from the company’s Evergreen facility or from its Plant 81 waste to energy, the report (pdf) noted.

Recycled and reclaimed carpet rose from 89.4 million to 121.3 million pounds in 2010.

Last year the company launched its Material Resources Management (MRM) system, which brings together previously disparate processes within Shaw’s waste management systems. Shaw says MRM provides manufacturing teams with the infrastructure they need to capture material previously considered waste. These tools include standardized scales and weighing systems in each facility, and a centralized reporting system for sharing the availability of material type and volume.

Today, Shaw says it is the largest carpet recycler in the world, reclaiming all brands and types of post-consumer carpet, and 85 percent of that reclaimed material is recycled directly back into new carpet.

Shaw’s water intensity was also down in 2010, from 1.59 to 1.58 gallons per pound of finished product. Shaw has an intensity goal of 1.12 gallons per pound by 2016. Last year 20 percent of the company’s total process water consumption was recycled water.

Shaw’s Tuftex facility in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., earned the 2010 Facility of the Year award from the California Water Environment Association. Used to dye and finish nylon fiber and manufacture rugs, the facility sources its water from the Colorado River, an area that has been in drought for more than a decade.

To further conserve these water supplies, Shaw installed a system to recycle backing process wastewater on site, reducing the facility’s demand for municipal water. It also treats dyeing process wastewater by oxidizing dyes — a process that reduces the treatment burden on the local utility. An additional system monitors wastewater pH levels, automatically stopping the flow of wastewater when low pH is detected, so it can be properly neutralized prior to discharge back into the local sewer system.

In 2010 Shaw’s greenhouse gas emissions intensity held steady at 1.79 pounds CO2e per pound of finished product. Shaw has a goal of 1.41 by 2017. The report states that scope 1 emissions were up, from .43 million to .48 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, and scope 2 emissions were up from 1.15 to 1.19 million metric tons.

And the report said that energy intensity was down from 6,422 to 6,336 BTUs per pound of finished product, en route to a 2017 goal of 4,697 BTUs per pound.

But Shaw parent company Berkshire Hathaway was slammed in a Carbon Disclosure Project report this week, which said the company was the fourth-largest by market capitalization not to report its carbon output to the CDP.

The Shaw report said that its efficiency improvements have included motion-sensor lighting, new HVAC control systems and the installation of nine thermal storage coolers at Plant 72, Shaw’s main administrative facility. Used to lower peak power demand, the thermal storage coolers generate and store ice each night, then use it to help cool the building during the day. Shaw says that Plant 72 is on track to receive LEED certification in 2011.

An energy audit last year revealed that lighting and ovens were two of Shaw’s biggest energy saving opportunities.  Changing the light fixtures and bulbs from high intensity discharge metal halide to fluorescent lighting in 15 manufacturing facilities helped Shaw to reduce lighting electricity consumption 20-40 percent alone in those facilities.

NOx was up from 0.88 to 0.91 million pounds last year, as were particulate matter of 10 microns or less, from 0.19 to 0.22 million pounds. But SOx was down from 0.18 to 0.15 million pounds.

Much of the report focused on product attributes. Shaw said that to date, more than 50% of its product sales are from Cradle to Cradle certified products. It said that it was the first manufacturer in the world to offer fully certified Cradle to Cradle flooring products, offering third-party assurance that its products meet some of the world’s most rigorous criteria for environmental and social responsibility. Earning this certification for all its products is the company’s ultimate goal, Shaw said.

Shaw said that in order to continually measure, monitor and improve the environmental and social impacts of its products, it uses a sustainable sourcing initiative, and governance and measurement tools such as life cycle assessments and product standards and certifications across each stage of the product life cycle. It has conducted Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) in accordance with the ISO 14040 series to assess the health and safety impacts of many of its processes, including Evergreen Nylon Recycling.

It has introduced Design for Environment (DfE) standards that all Shaw Eco products must meet, developed to ensure all new Eco products are designed according to Cradle to Cradle principles. And the company uses third-party verification through standards and certifications including the California Air Resources Board air quality standard, CRI Green Label Plus, EPA Design for Environment, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody, Good Environmental Choice Australia, Good Environmental Choice New Zealand, GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality, MBDC Cradle to Cradle Certified, National Wood Flooring Association’s Responsible Procurement Program, NSF 140 Sustainable Carpet Assessment Standard, Singapore Green Label and the UK Building Research Establishment (BRE) Environmental Assessment Method.

The report listed a number of percentage reduction goals, although it did not give baseline years for these targets. They were:

  • Reduce energy intensity by 25 percent by 2017
  • Reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 20 percent by 2017
  • Reduce post-industrial landfill waste by 90 percent by 2011
  • Reduce water intensity by an additional 40 percent by 2016
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