The Business Opportunity in Carpet Recycling

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Although nearly all kinds of carpets can be reused and recycled, only around 4 percent of the total amount of used carpets is reused and recycled in the U.S, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), the association that oversees nationwide carpet recycling and diversion efforts. Carpets have been recycled in the U.S. for nearly 25 years, but the lack of widespread demand has translated into inconsistent opportunities for carpet recycling entrepreneurs across the country.

What Can Be Manufactured Using Recycled Carpets?

Recycled carpets can be used to produce new carpets, carpet fiber, carpet underlayment, automotive parts, erosion control products, plastics, sport surfaces, roofing shingles, stepping stones, carpet cushion, railroad ties, and different engineered materials.

The Opportunity

The most common way you can earn money in carpet recycling is collecting old carpets, sorting and processing them to certain level to make the carpets useable as raw material of a different product. You can simply run a collection program and sell the collected carpets to a carpet recycling facility. This Presentation from CARE will give you some understanding of what involves in becoming a carpet collector. There are multiple collection models such as One-Day Collection Event, Permanent Drop-Off Site, Curbside Collection Program and Retail-Store Take-back Program. A Toolkit by CARE offers some understanding of how to conduct each type of collection program along with best practices and key challenges involved.

Setting Up a Profitable Carpet Recycling Business

Market Research: First of many steps involved in setting up a profitable carpet recycling business is identifying the business opportunity. The number of carpet recyclers is highest in a few regions- especially in Texas and California, as the largest carpet manufacturers are located in these states.

In other areas, carpet recycling can potentially be profitable, but in many rural areas, recycling cannot be profitably undertaken. So, you must identify the presence of carpet recyclers (if any) in your locality and compare the cost of landfilling and cost of recycling carpets. One place to start your research is the CARE website. After reading all the related information in the website, you can contact Dr. Bob Peoples (by email or phone at 706-428-2115), the Executive Director of the association.

Understand how Carpets are recycled: One of the many challenging aspects of carpet recycling is that currently there is no simple, routine method in place to recycle old carpet. However, one of the most common approaches in carpet recycling involves identifying and grouping carpets by their component fibers, mostly plastic and nylon. Then, the carpets are run through either a shearing machine or shredder to separate different layers of the carpets. Further processing it is needed to form the plastic into various products like automobile parts.

Understand the Cost of Recycling: Given the range of recycling requirements, there is a range of costs associated with carpet recycling. According to the CARE website, it costs between 5 cents to 25 cents to recycle per pound of old carpet depending on the type of carpet being processed, geographical location and how the carpet was installed.

As people see carpet as waste, this material should be completely free, however the reverse logistics of gathering and transporting old carpet is costly. As the most common form of recycling carpets involves identify ing the kind of face fiber used, breaking them down to their core components and converting those components into a form of product that somebody will buy or use in production of a new product, equipment will be required. Based on the process and technology required, the investment requirement will vary. Other business costs located to trucks, facility overhead and labor must also be considered.

Final Note: At the present time, carpet recycling is highly challenging and it feasibility will depend on local market conditions. As pressure to divert carpet from landfills grows, however, and as new models embraced by the Circular Economy such as carpet leasing continue to grow, carpet recycling will become increasingly viable in the years ahead.



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Carpet Recycling Toolkit

Collector: #1 Link of the Value Chain