Part two of this three-part article focuses on recycled content and natural fiber floor pads.

Today, approximately 90 percent of floor pads are made with petrochemical polyester, says Mazzoli. This polyester fiber is not only made from fossil fuels, but it also remains in the landfill indefinitely once it’s discarded.

“What we’ve been trying to do in the floor pad industry is recycle polyester fiber — primarily from soda bottles and water bottles — so at least we get a second run at the product,” says Mazzoli.

ACS Industries in Lincoln, Rhode Island, uses 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fiber from water and soda bottles in its green floor pads.

“Most fiber manufacturers would prefer to run virgin material because it is cleaner; however, due to the vast availability of recycled material, the transition [to recycled content] needed to be made,” says ACS Vice President of Sales Rory Beaudette. “Everybody today walks around with a water bottle. There are so many water bottles available that the recycling of these bottles allows this material to be accessible.”

Although manufacturers are successfully recycling plastic bottles to make floor pads, the floor pads themselves are not recyclable.

“Polyester in its purest form can be remelted and reformed, but once we add resin systems and mineral abrasives, it can no longer be remelted and reformed,” says Mazzoli. “So unfortunately floor pads cannot be recycled and reused at the moment.”

Because of this, manufacturers stress the importance of creating floor pads that last. In fact, all manufacturers interviewed for this article claim that their greener floor pads last as long as — or outlast — traditional pads.
3M Commercial Solutions Division in St. Paul, Minnesota, launched its recycled-content polyester-fiber floor pads last year.

“We do a lot of testing to make sure they meet the same level of performance as the virgin fiber pad,” says Marketing Manager Paul Amos. “We want to ensure the pad is durable, washable, reusable and long-lasting to forestall end-of-life landfill disposal.”

Some manufacturers offer floor pads that use plant-based fibers, such as those derived from sugar or corn. Treleoni’s plant-based polyester fiber pads equal the performance of virgin polyester pads, according to the company. These green pads can be used for polishing, stripping, scrubbing, buffing and burnishing.

“Our claims are that we use less fossil fuel on the front end during manufacture of the product and the product is manufactured using plant-based material,” says Mazzoli. “We’ve also achieved [U.S. Department of Agriculture] certification for using plant-based fiber.”

Other manufacturers, such as 3M and ETC of Henderson Inc., Henderson, North Carolina, are using natural fibers, such as hog hair. 3M offers floor pads that are a blend of hog hair and recycled-content polyester fiber. Most of the company’s floor pads containing natural fibers are designed for burnishing.

ETC has been making natural fiber floor pads since the ’70s for scrubbing, stripping and burnishing. The best-selling product in the natural-fiber line is the high-speed burnishing pad, which removes black marks and dirt more effectively than synthetic pads, says Randall Flowers, vice president of corporate accounts.

“If you look at hogs’ hair under a microscope, it has little splits in it, unlike a man-made synthetic fiber that is truly smooth,” he says. “These fiber splits allow it to polish more effectively.”

Indeed, ETC first launched its natural fiber pads — a blend of hogs’ hair and virgin fiber — because the company saw an industry need for better-performing floor pads that could get the job done more quickly, says Flowers.

“A side effect that came about because of that is the fact that they’re biodegradable,” he says. “The only truly biodegradable floor pads in the industry are made out of natural fiber. They’ve always been popular because of the way they perform, but now they’re becoming popular because of their benefit to the earth.”