Carpeting: Recycled

Recycled carpeting and its environmental benefits being the focus of corporate citizens and major manufacturers, the carpet and rug industry is showing it does far more than just cover our floors. The industry proactively addresses key issues in order to promote a healthy environment and provide a better future. Recent environmental issues, such as indoor air quality and overburdening landfill space, are of particular significance.

Recycled carpeting is a way the carpet and rug industry is committed to improving both the indoor and outdoor environments through ongoing stewardship initiatives. These initiatives include:

  • Producing responsible products
  • Improving manufacturing efficiency via environmentally responsible practices
  • Reducing, reusing or recycling industrial waste and post-consumer carpet

Recycled carpeting is just one way the industry is demonstrating its willingness and equally dedicated spirit to promoting open communication with the general public on all issues. To this end, The Carpet and Rug Institute, representing all segments of the industry, has compiled this report on industry endeavors currently being undertaken to improve and sustain our environment.

Manufacturing’s Environmental Role

Carpet manufacturers are striving to minimize the quantities of natural and energy resources used in day-to-day operations. They are reducing waste reusing and recycling raw materials, packaging materials, waste, and by-products.

Individual companies are pursuing environmental efforts at different points in the manufacturing process. Many of the following efforts are industry-wide, but some are small pilot programs.

Advanced monitoring systems and processes in the mills help conserve water, electricity, and other fuels. As an example, new developments in dyeing techniques require less water. Dye materials are removed from waste water; the waste water is monitored, reprocessed, and then reintroduced into the manufacturing system.

New systems recycle thermal energy, capturing, condensing, and then re-heating the water for use in the finishing of carpet. Oil waste is sold to recycling companies or is used as boiler fuel.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

Waste disposal has become as issue of increasing concern worldwide. As responsible corporate citizens, the carpet and rug industry recognizes the need to continue to minimize the effect of industrial waste and post-consumer carpet products on existing landfills:

Industrial Waste

Although more efficient manufacturing is reducing excess carpet waste, such as selvedges, trimmings, and shearings, the industry has found creative uses for carpet by-products, such as carpet trim and yarn scraps, to avoid the use of local landfills. Individual companies are engaged in recycling efforts, including the following:

  • Fiber and yarn that cannot be reused in manufacturing is often sent to yarn vendors that sell yarn for crafts and other end uses.
  • Excess carpet is cut into mats and sold.
  • Waste carpet trimmings, backing, and yarn often are sold to recycling plants to be processed into such things as carpet cushion, furniture battings and cushions, concrete filler, fence posts, road underlayment, parking stops, plastic lumber, and automotive parts.
  • Polyethylene packaging, used to wrap carpet rolls, is converted into plastic wrap or plastic trash bags, or is used in molded automotive parts.
  • Other materials used in the manufacturing process, such as cardboard, paper, aluminum, wooden pallets, fuel drums, batteries, yarn cones, roll cores, liquid containers, raw material packaging, and scrap metal are either reused or recycled.

Post-Consumer Carpet

Because the collection, sorting, and transporting of used carpet is such a mammoth challenge, the tasks are being addressed by carpet and fiber companies and individual entrepreneurs. Several companies have collection sites in place and are developing means to separate carpet components and recover polymers. The industry is working toward recycling these materials into new carpet fiber. Some companies are refurbishing used carpet modules. Currently, plastic beverage bottles are being used to make polyester carpet fibers.

To address the challenges of post-consumer recycling, The Carpet and Rug Institute has assembled a committee of member representatives to rally industry expertise and resources. The committee will work toward perfecting an identification system of carpet materials, to make the sorting of fiber and backing compounds in the future much easier and more efficient. The committee also will share technology that will accelerate the recycling of used carpet back into raw materials and the development of a "closed loop" recycling system.

These efforts present exciting possibilities for the future.

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