It’s 3.15am and Lime Street Station in Liverpool is empty, except for a string of about 10 tired-looking people with suitcases waiting to embark on the Liverpool to Manchester Airport train, the first train of the day.
We’re about to start an epic journey to Amsterdam, the original home of the carpet tile – the place where it was dreamed up as an alternative to the traditional, bulky broadloom carpets. Yes this place really is the Mecca for DCTUK!
Our hosts are Desso, or Tarkett Desso as they now have become since 2015, when Tarkett – the 3rd biggest flooring company in the world – decided to gulp up Desso. Since then the brand has gone from strength to strength and they are particularly well known for their desire to incorporate Dr Michael Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle philosophy into their business strategy – more of that later.
We’re met at Manchester Airport by Emma Bishop, one of Tarkett Desso’s sales team who will be our (excellent) host for the next couple of days – any excuse to vacate Wales for a few days. Our plane departs slightly late at 6.10am and off we go to the land of very tall people and wooden shoes.
On arrival we meet up with some fellow Brits from ARC Business Interiors in Shepshed - try saying that after a few drinks (they did try). They become our travelling companions on our journey through the world of Desso, as well as Michael Gillespie and Troy Hackett who both work for Tarkett Desso in the UK.
After a few minutes saying “hello” and the awkward handshake, kiss or high-five greetings are combated, we’re whisked off to Waalwijk a city about an hour from Amsterdam where the Desso carpet tile factory is located.
First up is a presentation by Rob Kragt, Communications and Training Manager at Desso who gave us a very detailed and interesting insight into Desso’s sustainability agenda and their Cradle to Cradle strategy. He also showed us some of the prototypes that they have made to try and achieve their objective of a more sustainable carpet tile. First up, carpet tiles made from paper, then from jute, and finally from bamboo. The pandas won't be pleased.
Carpet tile prototype made from bamboo
Anyway, what’s Cradle to Cradle I hear you ask?
Cradle to Cradle is the philosophy and ambition to use materials in a sustainable way through five areas of assessment – material reutilisation, renewable energy, social fairness, water stewardship and material health. It’s not just a “carpet tile thing” it’s a philosophy that extends to all products universally. Who knew, huh?
Desso implement this through various product innovations – such as EcoBase – their carpet tile backing made from 100% recycled products, as well as their factory infrastructure and their yarn innovations. These people have been drinking the same stuff Elon Musk drinks it seems.
Some of the really interesting bits of information we took away from this presentation included:
- Amazingly, Tarkett sell 1 million square metres of flooring each day.
- Desso are building a biomass installation to help power them towards achieving the next level of accreditation with Cradle to Cradle.
- Desso have built a new EcoBase production line so they can gradually move all their products to this more environmentally friendly backing solution.
After the presentation we were invited for lunch in the communal canteen area that featured a living wall – that’s a wall with living plants growing on it. Very Alan Titchmarsh Desso, we approve.
After stuffing ourselves we as many Dutch sausages as they could throw at us we continued the tour with a factory walkabout. Our guide was Harry who was the Indiana Jones of our carpet tile adventure. Bravely leading us through the myriad of fork lift trucks and robot carpet tile machines he explained how each machine played a crucial role in creating the quality tiles that Desso produce. Harry had been with Desso for over 30 years and his enthusiasm for the brand, the product and his colleagues was clear to see.
There were lots of bits we couldn’t film because of the sensitive nature of how the carpet tiles are made – but Harry did give the thumbs up to some areas and you can watch our video below to see these highlights. If you like warehouses and boxes, you’ll love it!
Following the warehouse tour we were driven blindfolded and gagged across to the top secret Desso Design Centre. Okay, I exaggerate, but it was another place that we had to keep our selfie stick securely in our bags. The presentation about how Desso create their incredible carpet tile designs was brilliant.
It all starts with an idea. For example, photography of landscapes from the sky. They then create designs based on ideas generated from the photography and test them out on a mini carpet tile machine. This little machine can make one-off carpet tiles and if the design looks good then they have a mini-factory that they can run a roll off to see how the pattern looks across multiple tiles. Seriously – a mini-factory! We were just slightly disappointed not to see any oompa-loompas.
A big thank you to Troy, Emma, Michael and all the folks at Tarkett Desso who looked after us during our trip. An awesome company, an awesome product, and some really awesome people!
You can buy Desso carpet tiles here at DCTUK and we’ll even fit them anywhere in mainland UK as well!