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USA leads on carpet sustainability

April 22, 2005
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INTELETEX - April 14 -- Several new and ongoing environmental projects in the United States underline the fact that America is leading the way in most aspects of ecological production, processing and recycling of carpets.

An example is the Carpet America Recovery Efforts program, an offshoot of the Carpet and Rug Institute. Under the auspices of CARE, the US industry and government are co-operating in a voluntary initiative aimed at to preventing carpet from burdening landfills.

The CARE project focuses on developing carpet reclamation and recycling methods by helping entrepreneurs develop new ideas; economically collecting spent carpet; finding new products to market; finding markets for products made from spent carpet; and developing recycling initiatives.

An example of a CARE-backed initiative is the plant set up in the US carpet-making capital city, Dalton, Georgia, by Cycle-Tex, Inc. This firm is a specialist recycler of thermoplastic post-industrial waste. It takes polypropylene and polyethylene scrap and turns it into high-quality re-pelletised material ready for use by other manufacturers.

Cycle-Tex has two extrusion facilities in North Georgia, which together are capable of processing over 40 million pounds weight of carpet per year, and it has an extensive distribution network, allowing it to pick up raw materials and deliver finished products on time.

By reducing landfill waste through recycling, providing suppliers with a reliable return on their waste streams, and providing customers with high-quality re-processed material, Cycle-Tex is part of a new wave of Green companies serving the carpet industry in the USA, a list of companies which include household names such as Milliken and Honeywell, and a host of less-familiar, often new organisations providing ideas and technology to the industry.

According to one US expert, recycling carpet currently saves about 200 million pounds of waste from being dumped in American landfill sites. Carol Blaha, owner of Carol Blaha Sales, is an independent carpet and flooring expert, specialising in Green solutions. She says: "This number is based on only 20% of the carpet being sent to recycling. Because carpet is petroleum based, we are saving 700,000 barrels of oil or 4.4 trillion BTU's of energy - enough to heat over 100,000 homes each year."

Ms. Blaha also stresses the importance of products that are 'closed loop' recycled: that means no portion of their used carpet will ever be incinerated or end up in a landfill since old carpet returned to the company serves as a raw material for new carpet.

Both Honeywell and DuPont are understood to offer a carpet recycling service for products using their own nylon fibre. "These two yarn manufacturers have such strong environmental statements they often award plaques to those converting to their products - acknowledging the owners' contribution to sustainability," Ms Blaha says.

Another recently developed 'down-cycling' process is used to produce GeoHay, made by converting recycled carpet into filters that prevent sediment from entering storm water systems and block erosion.

The company making GeoHay is based in Crestview, Florida, and has recently been awarded a substantial grant by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP says GeoHay, enables the recycling of fibres from used carpets to create an environmentally safe product that prevents sediment runoff from construction sites. The $200,000 funding will provide GeoHay with resources for its manufacturing plant in Crestview to increase the market for recyclable carpets.

Meanwhile, Milliken, one of the pioneers of sustainability in carpets, is continuing to promote its as Earth Square process, which is capable of giving a second, or even a third, life to used Milliken modular carpeting. Based on proprietary technology, Earth Square takes back a carpet installation at the end of its life, subjects it to intensive cleaning, re-texturises it and re-patterns it. The resulting 'new' carpeting is then given a further 10-year wear guarantee!

Says Milliken: "As landfill space rapidly diminishes, businesses continue to send millions of tons of carpet to landfill. Instead of simply breaking down old carpet, Milliken has re-thought the whole problem."

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