How can a mat be durable and biodegradable?
The longest-lasting mats that are also great for the planet.
Whatever mat you’re looking for, you want something durable. But, as we all try to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, you might also want something biodegradable.
Something we often get asked is how long our biodegradable mats last. If they break down (biodegrade) easily then how will they be robust enough to do their job? Surely, we need something permanent to keep our entrances safe for more than a few months.
It is a great question!
The answer lies in the definition of biodegradable: something that can be broken down by natural organisms.
What does biodegradable mean?
Biodegradable means an item or material will break down quickly and return to nature. Unlike degradable, materials do not need chemicals to break down (as plastic does, for example).
Biodegradable products are good for the environment because they don’t leave lifelong debris scattered over the earth. Most plastics and metals, on the other hand, leave micro particles long after we humans have lost sight of them.
Another beneficial feature that some people confuse with biodegradable is compostable.
If an item will completely break down soon (some say within a year) after being placed in the earth, fire or landfill, it is biodegradable. If that item will also provide nutrients to the earth, it is compostable.
What about biodegradable mats?
All our mats made from 100% coir are biodegradable. In fact, they go one step further: they’re compostable. Coconut fibres break down completely when placed in the right environment, but it takes a while.
That is because coir is extremely durable – without being placed in compost or the ground, your coir mat will work hard for years and years.
When added to compost, coir decomposes quickly. It is a great addition to home composts, as it prevents them from stinking and can nourish the other dirt and food waste in the heap. Coir is safe for wildlife, but won’t attract bacteria and organisms that cause rot.
How come coir is so strong?
Just like the shells they protect, coconut fibres are extremely durable. As well as mats, coir is used to make rope, baskets, fishing nets, mattresses and stiff-bristled brushes. All of these things (and more!) require a strong and hardy material.
Coir has a genetic makeup that includes a high lignin content. Lignin is a compound found in many plants that gives them strength and rigidity. Plants with a high lignin content are stronger, which makes them ideal for eco-friendly matting.
As well as its genetic structure, coir has natural antibacterial properties. That is why the insects and bacteria that decay other materials do not affect coir products. Lastly, coir has some water resistance. It can absorb water, but will not break down from it as easily as other materials.
Which other plants make durable mats?
There aren’t many plants that are robust enough to be made into mats, which is why coir mats are one of the most popular items in the industry.
Another plant that might spring to mind is rubber. While rubber matting is not one of the most obvious eco-friendly options, it does come from a plant. Natural rubber is made from latex that is directly extracted from trees.
Rubber is one of the strongest and most durable materials a mat can be made from. But, despite being natural, it is not always a good option for the planet. Rainforests are cleared to grow rubber trees and rubber does not break down (biodegrade).
Rubber also releases toxic off-gases into the environment. To find out more about these (and how to get rid of them), check out this guide to removing the rubber smell from mats.
So, what are the best durable-biodegradable mats?
The traditional style of coir mat is by far the most environmentally friendly. This is because there are no other materials in the mat. 100% coir means 100% biodegradable.
The traditional method relies on woven edges to keep the mat held firmly together. This method also gives the mat the additional benefit of minimal fraying. Coir fibres are notorious for getting all over the place, but woven edges keep this at bay to some extent.
Exceptional scraper mat!
“These well made coir mats are old skool. They are built to last for years - not like the mats you will buy in mega stores for $20 but like the mats I inherited from my parents that are still in use. Top notch.”
- Skye A.
While coir is our number 1 choice, another material closely follows. We’ve spoken about ECONYL before but, in case you’re new here, here’s a summary: the company creates virgin-quality nylon from old, discarded items.
Fishing nets, carpets and clothes that would all be otherwise destined for landfill become brand new fibres. We use those fibres to create stylish and safety-compliant entrance matting, and it’s a favourite among our architect customers.
Mat is great
“We are using the mat for chairs at our reception desk, it's ideal and the chairs are easy to move on it, safer than the hardwood floor.”
- Gillian R.
It’s another mat made with ECONYL, but this one isn’t your standard door mat. Red carpet runners have a notoriously high turnover, as their job is literally to be walked all over. Many flashy events take place outside, with the red carpet as the only barrier between feet and the ground.
Using recycled materials like ECONYL for mats that get a lot of use is a great way to reduce landfill as much as possible. While red carpets are crucial for some businesses, there is no need for them to be made from virgin materials each time.
Durable and good for the planet: don’t compromise
Never again do you need to choose between the environment and a good quality mat. The best of both is easy to find in our huge range of sustainable matting.
For more information on what it means for a mat to be biodegradable, or for a personalised recommendation and custom quote, get in touch. Our team of friendly matxperts can be found using the chat function below or by calling 1300 628 746.