January 1, 2009
A manufacturer of floor tiles hopes to rack up good karma by switching from synthetic to natural rubber.
Since the 1960s, most rubber flooring has been made from a petrochemical—styrene butadiene, to be exact—rather than the natural stuff extracted from Hevea trees in South America and Southeast Asia. Even though synthetic-rubber production emits much less carbon dioxide than making, say, vinyl or linoleum, Dalsouple, a 69-year-old British manufacturer of floor tiles, decided to reaffirm its commitment to the environment by returning to genuine rubber. In 2006 the company retooled part of its factory to accommodate a production process used in its early decades, reasoning that sustainability-minded clients would prefer to spec a natural product.
The new line, called DalNaturel, is now being distributed in the United States by Kasthall. According to Dalsouple, the tiles have the same favorable properties as synthetic flooring—durability, slip resistance, availability in a wide variety of colors and textures—while offering a true environmental benefit. Rubber trees are highly efficient at extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby offsetting the emissions created in manufacturing (and then some). In addition, the company is exploring the possibility of “fair-trade rubber,” talking with the Malaysian government and the Malaysian Rubber Board about establishing social and environmental standards for rubber plantations.
Durable, noise-absorbent, slip- and burn-resistant, and recyclable, DalNaturel tiles are available in two sizes, several patterns and textures, and dozens of colors.
Rubber flooring is ideal for high-traffic interiors. Tiles for exterior applications are also available.
95 percent natural rubber