An Overview of Carpet Recycling

Carpets account for more than 3.5 percent of waste disposed of in U.S. landfills and nearly all kinds of carpets are recyclable. As our waste stream continues to increase and size of landfills continues to decrease, local authorities and recyclers are looking for better alternatives of recycling various materials. As every year over 4 billion pounds of carpet waste is disposed in the U.S. landfills and another 400,000 tonnes of carpet waste is disposed in UK landfills, both proper disposal and systematic recycling of carpets deserve our attention.

This article discusses some key aspects of carpet recycling.  

Carpet Materials

Carpets are basically made of fibers such as Nylon, Polyester, Polypropylene, PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), PTT (Polyethylene Trimethylene Terephthalate). Carpets are made using wool as well. But more than 99 percent of the fibers used by the U.S. carpet industry are synthetic fibers. Nylon is the most commonly used material as it is used in approximately 50 percent of the carpets sold in the U.S.

Benefits of Carpet Recycling

Depending on the face fiber, carpet can be broken down and used as a raw material for the production of a new product. As carpets are made from natural, synthetic fibers, worn out carpets can be used in a number of applications from sports surfaces to insulation.

Here are few key benefits of recycling carpets:

1. Recycling used carpet and foam carpet padding, we can decrease greenhouse gas emissions, lower carbon footprint and reduce the use of millions of barrels of oil to produce new carpets.

2. Recycling an estimated 1000 square feet of carpet and foam padding, we can reduce approximately 913 pounds of CO2 from getting emitted into our air (this is equivalent to around 950 automobile driven miles), remove the need for an estimated 48 gallons of petroleum oil and keep about 500 pounds of carpet and foam padding out of our landfills.

3. Recycling carpets and foam padding can create some green jobs for the community.

Carpet Recycling Policies and Legislation

California's Carpet Stewardship Law: California is the first U.S. state to found a private sector designed and managed statewide carpet stewardship program which follows producer responsibility principles to ensure the discarded carpets are sustainably reused or recycled as carpet has been identified one of the 10 most prevalent waste materials in California landfills. In 2010, California passed a law, AB 2398, to increase recycling and diversion of post-consumer carpets in California. The law requires all the carpet manufacturers to include a stewardship assessment fee of $0.05 per square yard carpet sold in the state from July 2011. And there is also a penalty for non-compliance with the law.

Illinois Carpet Stewardship Act: Carpet Stewardship Act in Illinois requires individual producers or stewardship groups to implement and finance a statewide carpet stewardship program that manages the product by lessening the generation of waste by the product. In addition, it promotes carpet reuse and recycling. Each carpet stewardship plan must be approved by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to these, the act requires stewardship groups to pay specified administrative fees and submit annual reports to the agency. The act has been effective from January 1, 2015.

Carpet Recycling Associations

CARE: Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) is a non-profit body in USA that works to advance market-based solutions that enhance carpet recycling and diversion of post-consumer carpets from landfills, encourage carpet manufacturers to design recyclable carpets, and meet meaningful goals set by CARE board of Directors. In a nutshell, the association promotes environmentally, socially and economically sustainable post-consumer carpet diversion and recycling.

Carpet Recycling UK: Carpet Recycling UK is a non-profit membership association which is working to increase carpet recycling in the UK.

The association finds new end users for recycled carpets, facilitates relationships between people who want to recycle carpets and carpet recyclers, provide practical support for carpet recyclers, and lobby for favorable policy environment, and research and development in the field of recycling carpets.

References

GreenWaste Carpet Recycling

BRO-TEX Carpet Recycling

Shaw Environmental Post-Consumer Carpet Recycling

California Legislative Information: Carpet Stewardship

CalRecycle: Carpet

California Carpet Stewardship Program