Big Plus for European Laminate Flooring: Unbeatable Environmental Credentials

In the flooring industry, the EPLF plays a key role in the debate surrounding sustainability. Here’s an interview with Mr. Ludger Schindler, the President of Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (EPLF) where he answers our questions about laminate flooring industry sincerely.

ORSIAD: The flooring market is changing dynamically. New ‘designer’ flooring products are becoming increasingly popular. What is the EPLF’s reaction to this trend and how are European manufacturers adapting to it?

We are obviously monitoring this trend closely and a number of EPLF members already cover this type of product in their range. Price-wise, vinyl flooring is still more expensive than laminate. At the moment, sales are mostly increasing in the commercial property sector. But our members can also point to some very convincing USPs for European-made laminate flooring. Thanks to decades of development work, laminate flooring is technically very mature. It offers enormous potential in terms of new and creative design possibilities. And as the EPLF is always emphasising, European-made laminate floors have impressive eco credentials.

ORSIAD: Do good environmental and sustainability credentials really boost sales of laminate flooring?

There is a growing awareness, and not just among architects and property managers, that the choice of construction materials has to meet a host of strict environmental standards. Private individuals who are building or renovating their own property are also starting to rethink and change their values. Laminate flooring is a sustainable product and a sound choice from which the customer benefits for a lifetime. These factors make it very popular with end users, as our 2011 market study showed. To give consumers peace of mind when it comes to choosing and buying a product, there are recognised quality marks, which testify to the sustainable origin of the raw materials used and the product quality. In the flooring industry, the EPLF plays a key role in the debate surrounding sustainability. The aim is to achieve more transparency and product safety for the end consumer. Not all laminate is the same. EPLF members are continually investing in the development of innovative and environmentally friendly products. They committed themselves early on to the principle of sustainability and set new standards in environmental compatibility for their products and processes. They also advocated independent test commissions. We have independently taken responsibility for the very high standards of our products and the way in which they are manufactured.

ORSIAD: What arguments can laminate flooring manufacturers use to convince consumers of the environmental credentials of their products?

European laminate floors are a sustainable high-tech product. Not only are they made from renewable materials; they are also durable and completely recyclable. All laminate flooring components used by all EPLF members are manufactured without the use of pesticides, organ chlorine compounds or harmful heavy metals. European laminate flooring is free from PVC and plasticisers. Decorative flooring finishes are printed on certified paper with a high proportion of recycled material using water-soluble inks. Eco-friendly resins and adhesives are used as the binder. Fitting laminate flooring therefore helps promote a healthy indoor climate.

Thanks to modern technology, it is now possible to make laminate floorboards with highly realistic wood decors and natural-looking pore patterns. Large-format rustic floorboards with an all-over print are currently very popular in a range of widths, as are the many variants on the popular oak look, sometimes with authentic-looking cracks and knots. Customers can choose from a whole range of creative designs that would not otherwise be available on the market given our limited natural timber resources. One very important sustainability factor is the durability of laminate floors. The boards retain their shape and appearance after years of use, so they offer excellent value for money. And if you move house or decide to replace your floor, the laminate boards can be easily taken up thanks to the modern click-in systems and then disposed of or recycled if necessary. At the end of their long lifetime, laminate floors produce completely safe waste, which is not harmful to either people or the environment. There is no need to dispose of it as special waste. In fact, once chipped, it can be returned to the production process or even used as a growing medium in agriculture.

ORSIAD: What is the EPLF doing to promote sustainability at international level?

Representatives of the EPLF’s Technology Working Group have been involved in official standardisation committees throughout Europe and the rest of the world for almost 20 years. At the moment, for example, they are working on the revision of EN 14041. The aim of this standard is to integrate hazardous substances and environmental aspects into CE labelling for laminate floors, including indoor air quality, possible VOC emissions and substances classified as harmful. These committees are also responsible for making the necessary changes to update the old Construction Products Directive (CPD) to the new European Construction Products Regulation (CPR). The parts of the new regulation that apply to manufacturers of construction products have been in force since 1 July 2013. As a result, standard requirements now apply to construction products throughout Europe, increasing transparency and confidence for the consumer. The EPLF was also one of the first industry groups to initiate the development of environmental product declarations (EPDs), which provide relevant, verifiable and comparable information about a product’s environmental footprint.  Since 2009 the EPLF has been a member of IBU Institut Bauen und Umwelt e.V., the body responsible for issuing EPDs in Germany. In the same year the first EPDs were published for direct pressure laminate (DPL), printed decor laminate (PDL) and high-pressure laminate (HPL). Specifically created for laminate floors, these EPDs were devised by the EPLF and the Textiles & Flooring Institute in Aachen. Interior design products, which have a positive environmental impact, and can demonstrate this in specific environmental declarations (EPDs), are now increasingly being used in the commercial construction sector. These declarations are so informative that they could theoretically be used as the basis for a standard European eco label for the benefit of consumers. EPDs certify the strong environmental credentials of laminate floors, with very positive figures in terms of primary energy demand and greenhouse gas potential. Where the environment and sustainability are concerned, our members can present an excellent product marketing case for laminate flooring. The EPLF will continue to work with its members to raise the profile of these positive characteristics of our products. 

The new EPLF logo succinctly conveys the unique selling points of European laminate floors: ‘Quality and Innovation made in Europe’. This is our motto and all our members can use it confidently to market their high-quality products all over the world.