Is your building becoming more environmentally oriented, or greener? Ninety-two percent of a managers responding to an International Facility Management Association survey said they were working to make their facilities more sustainable, and the same percentage said they had set measurable goals related to sustainability. Seventy-nine percent said those goals were linked to their organization's business strategy.
Was that survey just taken? No. This month, the survey turns four years old.
Despite many years of “greening,” problems in making wise green choices in some areas persist. Entryway soil retention and management is one example of an area that still causes confusion: Are rental mats more or less harmful to the environment? Are rental mats less expensive than owned mats? Do they solve a major cleaning problem? Is cleaning-in-place a green approach?
Not much information exists on these topics in current literature. Let’s explore some of the facts that are available.
- First, mat rental involves transportation - a lot of transportation. If you have weekly service, the mats are clean every seventh day. That means 52 trips a year from the laundry and another 52 trips back. Of course it takes a backup set of mats to accomplish this, so rental mats require twice the resources involved to begin with. 104 trips a year is a lot of gas.
- Second, washing and drying in a laundry machine takes more energy than cleaning-in-place. Think of it. You have to use huge machines capable of moving the mat through the solutions and then through the dryers. The weight of the mat consumes large amounts of energy. Cleaning-in-place involves leaving the heavy mat where it lies and bringing equipment already used in other parts of the building to the mat, a simple, human-powered process.
- Finally, and this list is intended to be brief, rental mats are not very efficient. So that they can be transported and laundered, they are made thin, often composed of nylon pile (which is water resistant) and cut into standard sizes that are easy to roll and carry. Because they do not do the job as well as professional clean-in-place matting, more labor and effort are required to stop the soils and moisture they are not. This uses more energy.
Effective professional matting has three stages:
Gross aggregate-removing scraper mats for outdoors. The rubber mats offered by most rental companies cannot compete with professional quality scraper mats that keep bulk soils outdoors.
Mid-range matting designed to trap in channels and pockets the mud, greasy soils, chemistry used in parking lots, remaining sand and water.
Drying matting designed to absorb the final water from shoes before stepping onto permanent carpet or hardwood flooring. A total traffic lane of 30’ is recommended.
Which costs more? Some facility managers believe mat rental is inexpensive compared with the alternative. A 3x5 mat will cost about $156 a year, about 35% more than a much higher quality clean-in-place mat that will last from five to 10 years with proper care. In five years, the 3x5 rental will cost $780, and in 10 years, $1,560.
Is cleaning-in-place harder? No. It involves the same machinery in general and same principles as cleaning the carpet used in other parts of your building. Most rental mats must already be cleaned daily by the renter, particularly during inclement weather.
When you consider the environmental footprint, the cost and the reduced efficiency of rental mats, you may be ready to review clean-in-place.