Despite their soft and cosy feeling under our feet, carpets can have a range of environmental and health impacts just like any other product.
In fact, they can have considerably different criteria involved when it comes to assessing their environmental or health impacts compared to other types of flooring materials. As with other flooring, their composition and methods of manufacture need to be taken into consideration. However, the answers to questions such as “synthetic or natural fibres?” or “what chemical treatments have been used?” aren’t necessarily as clear-cut as they might appear.
It’s important to see the bigger picture and look at a carpet’s entire life cycle from the sourcing of raw materials, to manufacture, installation, use and maintenance and finally its ultimate disposal. This should apply to all components of the “carpet system” including the fibre, the backing or padding material, and the glues and adhesives used for binding.
Natural fibres are usually better than synthetic when it comes to a range of criteria. They may have natural stain resistant properties, eliminating the need for nasty stain-repellent chemical treatments, and may only emit low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Natural fibres are also biodegradable – just look for untreated wool, organic cotton, jute, sisal or coir when sourcing carpet products.
However, natural fibres are not always necessarily better than synthetic fibres from other environmental perspectives.
You can also check out GECA’s Carpet standard and see a list of GECA certified carpet manufacturers.