Flooring Design Week

Enviable design collaborations and unparalleled Made-in-Germany quality are only part of the VORWERK story. The premium carpet manufacturer has always had sustainability in the weave.

Despite being in business since 1883, Made-in-Germany carpet producer Vorwerk Flooring is resolutely future-facing. Sustainability is integral to the company’s very DNA, not only in what it makes, but also how it runs its business

Soft stuff, hard facts: Vorwerk Flooring shows how sustainability is done | News

Despite being in business since 1883, Made-in-Germany carpet producer Vorwerk Flooring is resolutely future-facing. Sustainability is integral to the company’s very DNA, not only in what it makes, but also how it runs its business

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‘The Japanese can't get enough of it,’ explains my taxi driver as we dart along the historic streets of Hamelin, an hour or so outside Hanover. The subject of conversation: the legend that brings hordes of international tourists – and not just the Japanese – to the pretty North German town each year to retrace the steps of the infamous Pied Piper and immerse themselves in the abundant medieval architecture. It's a tale that never grows old, it would seem.

It's fitting then that Hamelin should also be home to another legend. Vorwerk, the high-end, Made-in-Germany carpet brand that manufactured its first textile in 1883, has most definitely stood the test of time – just like its products. Sustainability is integral to the company’s very DNA, not only in what it makes, but also how it runs its business. While its flooring might be cut to size, corners certainly aren’t.

‘It’s a Vorwerk!’ runs the brand's marketing slogan, but it could easily be ‘I’m a Vorwerk!’: what the company's team of in-house experts don’t know about textile flooring isn’t worth knowing, specialists in super-robust polyamide carpets

Soft stuff, hard facts: Vorwerk Flooring shows how sustainability is done | News

‘It’s a Vorwerk!’ runs the brand's marketing slogan, but it could easily be ‘I’m a Vorwerk!’: what the company's team of in-house experts don’t know about textile flooring isn’t worth knowing, specialists in super-robust polyamide carpets

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Taxi ride over and I’m at the manufacturer’s vast production plant, immersed in a world of, at times, bewildering specialist know-how. As I get passed from one expert to another, one thing becomes patently clear. This is a business powered by passion. ‘It’s a Vorwerk!’ runs their marketing slogan, but it could easily be ‘I’m a Vorwerk!’: what these people don’t know about textile flooring isn’t worth knowing. These are dyed-in-the-wool carpet perfectionists – only it’s not wool, but super-robust, fully recyclable polyamide that’s their material of choice.


What these people don’t know about textile flooring isn’t worth knowing


If you’re like me, you’ll have gone through phases of involuntary eye-rolling when you hear the word ‘sustainability’ because of the way it's so often paid mere lip-service, with nothing substantive or meaningful underpinning it. So, know this: Vorwerk, perhaps more than any company I’ve encountered, actually walk the walk. Environmental protection is a corporate aim in its own right at Vorwerk. Indeed, these guys like nothing better than being first-movers when it comes to sustainable innovation.

Here are eight things I learned about Vorwerk’s culture of sustainability that you should know. We’re talking about soft products that pack a hard punch, and no mistake...

Sustainability is built into Vorwerk’s carpets and tiles, which are guaranteed for five years, but, with care, can last for up to 25 years – and that’s with heavy-duty usage in contract settings

Soft stuff, hard facts: Vorwerk Flooring shows how sustainability is done | News

Sustainability is built into Vorwerk’s carpets and tiles, which are guaranteed for five years, but, with care, can last for up to 25 years – and that’s with heavy-duty usage in contract settings

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1) Sustainability is built into every Vorwerk product.
Quality materials and the latest production processes result in award-winning carpet products that stand the test of time, no matter how long you stand around on them. Vorwerk’s carpets are guaranteed for five years, but, with care, can last for up to 25 years – and that’s with heavy-duty usage in contract settings.

2) At Vorwerk, recycling starts in-house.
For almost 30 years now, Vorwerk has operated its own internal recycling plant. Here, textile remnants from the production process are transformed into a granulate, which, in turn, is used to make a glue that then re-enters the production process in the form of the brand’s ‘Texback’ products on the underside of its carpets. 2018 saw 301 tonnes of carpet waste recycled internally, saving on 17 truck-loads of new glue.

Vorwerk Flooring uses a recycled yarn called ECONYL®, which is created from old fishing nets and other nylon waste; while frequent quality checks during production ensure a long-life product

Soft stuff, hard facts: Vorwerk Flooring shows how sustainability is done | News

Vorwerk Flooring uses a recycled yarn called ECONYL®, which is created from old fishing nets and other nylon waste; while frequent quality checks during production ensure a long-life product

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3) Power to the people! And to Vorwerk, via external reuse.
The solid waste Vorwerk produces is brought to a local incineration plant, where the steam produced is fed, in part, back to the company to be used in its production processes once again. This thermal reuse means a reduction in the need for other forms of energy for manufacturing. Up to 1,000 tonnes of Vorwerk waste per annum is reused in this way.

4) Back to front, it’s all good.
Vorwerk dispensed with foam backing on its products way back in the 1990s, in favour of textile. And in terms of coatings, the manufacturer has eliminated the use of both PVC and bitumen. This means that Vorwerk carpets produce significantly fewer emissions than EU limits, and, more importantly, are fully recyclable – once they’ve been separated into their constituent parts. All dyes used are environmentally friendly.

Vorwerk Flooring ditched foam backing on its products in the 1990s, in favour of textile. And in terms of coatings, the manufacturer has eliminated the use of both PVC and bitumen. What's more, all dyes used are environmentally friendly

Soft stuff, hard facts: Vorwerk Flooring shows how sustainability is done | News

Vorwerk Flooring ditched foam backing on its products in the 1990s, in favour of textile. And in terms of coatings, the manufacturer has eliminated the use of both PVC and bitumen. What's more, all dyes used are environmentally friendly

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5) Vorwerk is on an innovation roll.
The company has never shied from taking the path less-travelled, if travelled at all. With innovation as a key driver of their business, they’ve delivered a number of firsts. Like their ‘velcro’-like Ecofix System, which allows carpets to be fitted without the use of a glueing agent. Or their fully automatic on-site dye tower, which uses gravity to minimise the use of energy.

Vorwerk Flooring's ‘velcro’-like Ecofix System, which allows carpets to be fitted without the use of a glueing agent, is just one of the many firsts the innovation-led business has brought to the market

Soft stuff, hard facts: Vorwerk Flooring shows how sustainability is done | News

Vorwerk Flooring's ‘velcro’-like Ecofix System, which allows carpets to be fitted without the use of a glueing agent, is just one of the many firsts the innovation-led business has brought to the market

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6) Circles are better than straight lines.
Vorwerk is on a mission to make the circular economy a reality. At present, the company currently achieves a recycling rate of up to 30% on its tiles – and this figure is only set to rise. The company is making strides to close the loop as quickly as possible, by eliminating waste and by recycling as much as possible.

7) Vorwerk is going carbon-neutral in 2020.
This year sees a major milestone in Vorwerk’s sustainability story, as the company turns 100% carbon-neutral. In addition to the steam power from its external recycling partner, the company uses CO2-neutral electricity from hydropower. This leaves Vorwerk’s CO2 balance sheet at a low 21g of CO2 per kWh, which is then officially offset via ClimatePartner. It’s worth noting that all travel by Vorwerk’s team is offset, too. Every train, plane and automobile.

Colourful yarns but no yarn-spinning: the short truth of the matter is that Vorwerk Flooring is a carbon-neutral business that's making strides to operating a circular economy

Soft stuff, hard facts: Vorwerk Flooring shows how sustainability is done | News

Colourful yarns but no yarn-spinning: the short truth of the matter is that Vorwerk Flooring is a carbon-neutral business that's making strides to operating a circular economy

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8) You can never have enough eco-labels.
Vorwerk flooring carries all the latest major green-product labels internationally – including the German GUT licence – helping architects obtain that all-important approval from the German Sustainable Building Council, LEED, and other verification programmes. In short: specifying Vorwerk allows you to achieve the highest possible LEED certification level – Platinum. Meanwhile, the brand’s latest endorsement comes via the US Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus, which testifies that Vorwerk carpets and carpet tiles are particularly low-emission. Breathe easy.

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