Look underneath your feet. There is a good chance you are standing on carpet, which at the end of its useful life poses a vexing disposal problem. Old, worn out carpet is one of the most costly, bulky and difficult to handle waste streams. Whether brought to a transfer station, or left at the curb for bulky waste pick-up, carpet in Connecticut has become a problem. Companies that process C&D debris don’t want it, and most of our Waste-to-Energy plants can accept carpet only when it has been reduced in size. And carpet disposal continues to grow – from 2.3 million tons to nearly 3.6 million tons annually since 2000.
According to the Product Stewardship Institute, every year American’s dispose of almost 3.9 million tons of old carpet and rugs. Carpet is approximately 1.5 percent of all municipal solid waste by weight, or 2 percent by volume; one of the top ten materials by weight disposed of annually. In CT carpet is often mixed with the MSW and goes to a Waste – to – Energy facility or is included with construction and demolition debris, and then landfilled.
Can it be recycled? Well, recycling efforts for commercial grade carpet resins and quantities have been underway for years. This resin – Nylon 6 and Nylon 6,6 — is commonly used in commercial installations, lending itself to easier recycling when it’s time to remove and replace a carpet. Nylon 6 and 6,6 are recycled into a variety of new products, including carpet, padding, and engineered plastic resins. This of course saves natural resources, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Unfortunately, only about 7% of carpet was recycled in 2012, in spite of the carpet industry’s voluntary recycling programs, in place since 2002.
An important impediment to recycling is the type of resin used to construct the carpet , and the use of different materials integrated in a given carpet. As noted, Nylon 6 and 6,6 have historically been recycled and represent the “low hanging fruit” for carpet recycling. Some carpet manufacturers have started producing “environmentally friendly” carpet that is made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) produced from post- consumer bottles. Carpets made from PET are quickly gaining market share. Carpets manufactured from PET are not easily or economically recycled. Because Nylon, Pet, other plastic resins, and natural fibers are all used to make carpets, recycling requires specialized (and expensive) equipment to assess and correctly identify the resin and material types in a post-consumer carpets.
California was the first state to legislatively mandate and pass a carpet recycling law in 2010 (AB 2398). AB 2398, initiates a mandatory recycling program for carpeting. The program is operated by the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), a national stewardship organization. California’s recycling program is funded by a legislatively required fee of $.05 per square yard on the sale of new carpet. In 2013 California’s carpet recycling rate was 14%, double the national average. Many states (including CT) are studying California’s program to determine if similar legislation could help address their carpet disposal issues.
Connecticut Works Towards a Solution
In May of 2014 a national dialogue was held at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to discuss carpet recycling. The services of the Product Stewardship Institute were engaged to bring in industry representatives, governmental entities, and stakeholders from around the country. Over 100 people attended the two day dialogue! The State of Connecticut, its Product Stewardship Council and other local stakeholders are hoping the dialog can result in the crafting of appropriate carpet stewardship legislation. Such a proposed bill would have to include many elements, among them, product scope, funding mechanism, incentives, performance standards, convenience standards, stewardship organization, outreach and education, stewardship plan contents, audit requirements, anti-trust issues, reporting requirements, penalties for violations, administrative fees, implementation schedule, disposal ban and state procurement requirements.
If you are interested in working on this issue, please contact the CT Product Stewardship Council through our website.
Carpet Manufacturers carpet-rug.org