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From waste, to less waste, to zero waste

DSM and Niaga joined forces in 2014 to create the DSM-Niaga joint venture, redesigning products from the ground up to fit the circular economy.  
Niaga®: From waste, to less waste, to zero waste

The Niaga® team have rethought the way we make products by only using clean materials: Materials without additives and that won’t present any future nasty surprises. The Niaga Technology for carpet production is based on using a simple set of clean materials enabling 100% recycling in new carpets after use. This new way of making carpets can help the industry to go from waste, to less waste, to no waste at all.

Although Niaga is initially focused on the carpet industry, the technology has intriguing potential. In fact, virtually any product manufactured from man-made materials like polyesters and polyamides – from diapers to car mats could employ Niaga Technology.

This includes DSM’s own portfolio: As one of the world’s leading sustainability-led science companies, DSM is already investigating the great potential for Niaga Technology to enhance its own family of performance materials.

Initially focused on the carpet industry

A new kind of venture

The key to success is simple, explains Kelly Hall, Vice President, Strategic Growth and Managing Director, Niaga “Our technology is founded on the firm belief that we must avoid the ignorance of throwing things away,” he says. “But at the same time it’s very important that we are able to present the industry with a sound business case – or they simply will not buy this technology.”

The very fact that DSM has committed to this joint venture explains much about the nature of 21st century innovation and collaboration. “We have taken a leap of faith with this project because we can see the potential to apply our expertise and materials for tremendous benefit,” says Kelly.

New adhesive technology

Adhesive technology

Niaga is a new way of thinking about how we make products; and then deconstruct them; and then re-make them.

The glue that holds the whole concept together – quite literally – comes from DSM in the form of an engineered adhesive. It binds the fiber (top) of the carpet and the backing together, replacing latex, which is heavy, takes a lot of energy to cross-link (join with other materials), and makes the carpet prone to stains and burning.

They soon discovered that theory is easier than practice. Any new adhesive would have to meet strict criteria including extreme heat resistance and long-term durability. It also needed to be a sustainable material, free of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), the potentially harmful chemicals emitted from many traditional solvents and adhesives.

Joint Venture

Despite not having an ‘off the shelf’ adhesive available, the DSM team took on the daunting challenge of identifying and adapting an existing adhesive for the job.

DSM developed an adhesive that was tested and then scaled-up, with carpet samples manufactured for potential customers on a custom-built lamination machine. The adhesive plays an important role in enabling carpet made with Niaga Technology to be fully recyclable.

The Niaga Innovation Center in Geleen, the Netherlands lies at the heart of the Niaga business development together with partners and potential customers. “This is now a global center of excellence and we are ready to deal with what we hope will be major demand”, says Chris Reutelingsperger, Chief Technology Officer at DSM-Niaga. A Circular Adhesive Competence Center in Zwolle, the Netherlands, works on the greater potential of the engineered adhesive for carpet and other applications.

Bringing carpet back to life again and again.

Carpet waste

Traditionally, when a carpet reaches the end of its life there are two stark choices: Bury it or burn it.

In the United States alone some four billion pounds – 1.8 billion kg - of carpet ends its life in landfill every year. This represents around 85% of all the discarded carpet in the country, making it one of the highest single contributors to the country’s landfill sites.

The main problem with landfill is that you throw away a valuable resource – while at the same time having an adverse effect on nature.

The alternative to burying old carpet is to burn it. Most industrial incinerators operate at temperatures of 850° C or higher. Aside from causing huge carbon emissions (which in turn contribute to further global warming) they can release potentially harmful dioxins, while requiring intensive management and safety procedures.

So why hasn’t the carpet industry come up with a better plan for the disposal (or even better, recycling) of carpet?

The fact is that until the advent of Niaga technology, only a very small percentage of traditional carpet could be recycled due to the difficulties associated with deconstructing the carpet back into a form that is pure enough to recycle.

Now, thanks to Niaga, the industry has a better option than burning or burying carpet. Bringing it back to life. Again and again.