The sustainability glossary

When talking about sustainability in the carpet manufacturing industry, it’s easy to get lost in the technical lingo. And yet, it’s important to know what the most used terms really mean when you want to join the conversation, and certainly when you are reading the content on this website. That’s why we thought an essential glossary of sustainability terms might help. But instead of inventing our own definitions, we relied on the definitions of renowned European and global organizations.

When you’re reading about
renewable sources


At least partly derived from biomass, organic material of biological origin (excluding material embedded in geological formations and/or fossilized). Examples of biomass are plants, trees, algae, marine organisms, micro-organisms, animals, etc. Bio-based can also mean that the feedstock used for producing a material derives from any form of organic waste. Bio-based polyamides for example are a new class of bioplastics that are derived from renewable resources such as natural fats and oils. (1/12/13)

To be labeled as bio-based, the bio-based content in a product must be able to be physically detected and certified.

Biodegradable material

Material that is capable of undergoing biological aerobic or anaerobic degradation during a fixed period, leading to a release of carbon dioxide and/or biogas and biomass, depending on the environmental conditions of the process (1)

Biogenic carbon

Biogenic global warming potential (GWP-BIOGENIC) is any carbon that comes from a biomass source such as trees and plants (e.g., timber), except native forests. This carbon is stored in the biomass. Any biogenic carbon within biomass which is transferred throughout the lifecycle of a product or building should be reported using ‘land use land use change’ (GWP-LULUC). (15)


Material of biological origin, excluding material embedded in geological formations or transformed to fossilized material, and excluding peat. Biomass includes organic material from trees, crops, grasses, tree litter, algae, animals and waste of biological origin, e.g. manure. (1)

Energy recovery

Conversion of waste material into useful energy. Energy recovery is achieved through the combustion of processed or raw refuse e.g. to produce steam. (1)


General term for raw material for a process (1)

Mass balance

Chain of custody model that can be used to track recycled feedstocks as they flow through manufacturing processes (1)

Non-renewable resource

Resource that exists in a fixed amount that cannot be replenished on a human time scale (1)

Renewable material

Material that is composed of biomass and that can be continually replenished within a defined period (1)


Renewable resource

Resource that is able to be renewed or replenished by biological cycles or agricultural processes and at a rate equal to or greater than consumption so that the products and services provided by these resources are not endangered and remain available for future use (1)

Virgin raw material

Material that has not been subjected to use or processing other than that required for its initial manufacture (1)

When you’re reading about
recycled content yarn


Secondary product, resulting from a production process, which can be re-used for production without prior re-processing. By definition, by-products are not regarded as waste. (1)

Chemical recycling

Breaking down or changing the chemical structure of a material to obtain new material(s) which can either be broken down further or used as raw material. Examples for processes used in chemical recycling are cracking, gasification, pyrolysis or depolymerization. Chemical recycling is also referred to as “feedstock recycling” when the end products of the recycling process can be used as feedstock for a petrochemical plant. Chemical recycling is also referred to as ‘advanced recycling’. (1)/(4)

Closed loop recycling

Recycling for use in the same product group as the one from which it originated. A closed loop system uses products that are afterwards recovered and turned into new products indefinitely, without losing their inherent properties (1)


Reversion of a polymer to its monomer(s) or to a polymer of lower relative molecular mass. The resulting smaller molecules could be monomers and oligomers or raw, intermediate, or final products. (1)

Design for recycling

Approach to the design of a product that facilitates recycling at the end of its useful life (1)


Life cycle stage of a product when a proper waste management is applied for discarded end-user products. The end-of-life of a carpet material occurs at the end of its useful life when it can no longer be reused, reprocessed nor recycled. (1)


Waste disposal site for the deposit of waste on to or into land under controlled or regulated conditions (1)


Expected time of a product's serviceable use or period of use (1)

Mechanical recycling

Processing of floor covering waste into recycled raw material or products by means of mechanical processes, e.g., grinding, washing, separating, drying, re-granulating and compounding. This process will produce recyclates that can be converted into new products, often substituting virgin materials. (1)

Mono material textiles

Carpets made of yarns from solely one chemical composition, for example, polyamide-6. (1)

Open loop recycling

Recycling for use in a different product group to the one from which it originated (1)

Physical recycling

Processing of floor covering waste into recycled raw material or products without changing the chemical structure of the material (1)

Post-consumer waste

Material, generated by the users of products, that has fulfilled its intended purpose or can no longer be used, including material returned from within the distribution chain, used carpet after renovation, demolition, off cuts collected from the site of carpet flooring installation. The term “post-use” is sometimes used synonymously. (1)

Post-industrial material

Material also described as pre-consumer waste.

Pre-consumer waste

Material, resulting from a production process which must undergo a recycling operation, or contains contaminants that need to be removed before it can be further used or processed. This excludes by-products. The term “post-industrial material” is sometimes used synonymously. (1)

Recycled content

Proportion, by mass, of recycled material in products. Only pre-consumer and post-consumer materials are considered as recycled content. (1)

Recycled material

Material that has undergone a recycling process (1)


Processing of waste materials for the original purpose or for other purposes, excluding energy recovery (1)


The use of a product more than once in its original form (1)


Any substance or object which the generator or holder discards or intends to discard or is required to discard (1)

When you’re reading about the
low-impact value chain

Climate change

The altering of the planet’s climate due to an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activity. Effects of climate change include rising temperatures, leading to increased extreme weather such as heatwaves, floods, droughts and storms, and resulting in reduced water and food security and social stability. (5)

CO2 emissions

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colorless, odorless and non-poisonous gas formed by combustion of carbon and in the respiration of living organisms and is considered a greenhouse gas. CO2 emissions are emissions stemming from the burning of fossil fuels; they include carbon dioxide produced during consumption of solid, liquid, and gas fuels as well as gas flaring. (6)

CO2 equivalents (CO2 eq.)

A metric measure used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based on their global-warming potential (GWP), by converting amounts of other gases to the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide with the same global warming potential.

Carbon dioxide equivalents are commonly expressed as million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, abbreviated as MMTCDE. The carbon dioxide equivalent for a gas is derived by multiplying the tonnes of the gas by the associated GWP. For example, the GWP for methane is 25 and for nitrous oxide 298. This means that emissions of 1 million metric tonnes of methane and nitrous oxide respectively is equivalent to emissions of 25 and 298 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. (6)


The integration of environmental aspects into product design and development, with the aim of reducing adverse environmental impacts throughout a product's life cycle (1)


Tool to communicate the environmental performance of a product or system (8)

EN 15804

EN 15804 is considered the most popular global standard for producing an EPD for construction products. It provides core product category rules (PCR) for assessing construction products directly, or may be used for developing even more detailed PCR for specific product categories. Fundamentally, EN 15804 defines how data for EPDs is collected, reported, verified, and presented, and also includes rules for Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCA) and Inventories (LCI).

GHG (Greenhouse gases)

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), which trap and hold heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. Much of human activity emits greenhouse gases, such as burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) for energy and transport, global food production and deforestation. Fossil fuels account for over 75 per cent of global GHG emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. (5)

GHG emissions

GHG emission metrics are used to express emissions of different GHGs in a common unit and are stated in CO2-equivalents (CO2-eq) using the Global Warming Potential with a time horizon of 100 years (GWP100). (14)

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

A measure of how much energy the emissions of 1 ton of a gas will absorb over a given period of time, relative to the emissions of 1 ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). The Global Warming Potential (GWP) was developed to allow comparisons of the global warming impacts of different gases. (14)

Life cycle assessment (LCA)

Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle (1)

When you’re reading about choosing a
sustainable yarn manufacturer 

Carbon footprint

A measure of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by a particular person, organization, product, or activity. A bigger carbon footprint means more emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, and therefore a bigger contribution to the climate crisis.

Measuring a person’s or an organization’s carbon footprint entails looking at both the direct emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels for energy production, heating, and land and air travel, and indirect emissions resulting from the production and disposal of all food, manufactured goods, and services they consume. (9)

Circular economy

Economic system aimed at maintaining the value of products, materials and resources for as long as possible by extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life, while minimizing the generation of waste. The circular economy decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designs waste out of the system.

The circular economy is based on three principles:
• Design out waste and pollution.
• Keep products and materials in use.
• Regenerate natural systems.


As used in LCA practice: a product is designed so that its materials and components can be repurposed or recycled indefinitely. This makes products “circular” and reduces their environmental impacts.


As used in LCA practice: the assessment of resource or environmental burdens involved in a manufacturing stage of a material or product life cycle, which includes, but is not limited to resource extraction, transportation, processing and manufacturing (1)


As used in LCA practice: the assessment of resource or environmental burdens involved in a material or product entire life cycle, which includes, but is not limited to resource extraction, processing, fabrication, transportation, retail, e-commerce, usage and end-of-life alternative repair, reuse, recycle, final disposal (1)


The practice of providing misleading or false information about the sustainability of a company’s business activities. Because companies may not realize that majority of their emissions are in scope 3 or that many carbon offsets are of dubious efficacy, greenwashing can happen unintentionally as well as intentionally. (7)


Any action taken by governments, businesses, and people to reduce, sequester, or prevent greenhouse gas emissions. Examples include transitioning to renewable energy like wind and solar, investing in carbon-free transportation, promoting sustainable agriculture and land use, planting forests to act as carbon sinks, and changing consumption practices and diet behaviors.
To limit global warming to 1.5° C, which scientists have set as the threshold before irreversible climate impacts occur, the world must take mitigation actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% before 2030 and reach net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century. (9)

Net zero

A target to cut greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests for instance. Reaching net zero requires us to ensure that carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are balanced by human efforts to remove carbon dioxide emissions (for example, by creating carbon sinks to absorb carbon dioxide) - thereby stopping further increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Transitioning to net zero requires a complete transformation of our energy, transportation, and production and consumption systems. This is necessary to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

To keep global warming below 1.5° C, the world’s governments need to ensure that all greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2025, and reach net zero in the second half of this century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recommended to reduce CO2 emissions globally by 45% before 2030 (compared to 2010 levels) and reach net zero by mid-century. (9/10/11)

Renewable energy

Energy derived from resources that are not depleted on timescales relevant to the economy, i.e. not geological timescales. Examples include wind, solar, hydropower, hydrothermal, ocean (wave and tidal), geothermal, and biogas from anaerobic digestion (biomass). (2)

SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 17 SDGs are integrated—they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability. (5)

(1) CEN, to be published in CEN/TC 134/WG 10 N 344 and CEN/TC 134/WG 10 N 369 (September 2023)
(2) Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 
(3) Plastics Europe,

(4) Chemical Recycling Europe, 
(5) United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 
(6) eurostat, 
(7) Normative, 
(8) EESC, 
(9) United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 
(10) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 
(11) UN, Net Zero Coalition,
(12) Bio-Plastics Europe, 
(13) Polymer Database, 
(14) United States Environmental Protection Agency, 

(15) Circular Ecology,