Carpet Recycling & Processing
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According to the Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), “Americans discard about 2.5 million tons of carpet each year.” The Carpet recycling industry has massive potential, but at this time only about 5% of carpet is recycled – 155 million pounds.
Carpet recycling can recover valuable materials to make decking, construction material, automotive and furniture parts, and carpet pads. These recycled carpet fibers are valuable materials that can create positive change on a local level as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) is expected raise their recycling rate to 24 percent by 2020 in California via an extended producer responsibility (EPR) law. Under this law, CARE pays carpet recycling processors a subsidy for recycled materials they sell to be used in new products.
Total Materials flows were as follows:
• Recycled Output (reuse plus recycle) was 52% of gross collections
• Waste-to-Energy (WTE) represented 5%
• CAAF and kiln output reported at 7%
• 70% of recycled materials went to resin and molding applications, down from 86% in 2017
• Carpet face fiber use was 2% of recycled output, up from 1% in 2017
• Carpet backing use was 5%, up 4% from 2017
• PC4, calcium carbonate extracted from post-consumer carpeted use accounted for 11% of output. This is the first year for significant PC4 usage – which increases the recycling yield of other applications which represented 13% of the recycled uses.
• Greenhouse gas equivalents saved was calculated to be 160,548 mTCO2E using the 2018 EPA WARM model: www.epa.gov/warm/versions-waste-reduction-model-warm#WARM Tool V14 o Enough to take 34,087 cars off the road. This is equivalent to 371,703 barrels of oil consumed could power 19,225 homes in a year
• Engineered Resins made up 70% of end market outlets
Recycling has only gotten more expensive as carpet manufacturers have switched from nylon fibers to polyester, decreasing the value of scrap carpet. So, this bulky waste takes up considerable landfill space and is costly for local governments to manage.
Hazardous substances are released during carpet recycling. Phthalates, perfluorinated compounds (PFAS), flame retardants, and toxic heavy metals released from carpets are known for carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicity, and endocrine disruption. Bottomline, they are extremely dangerous and children are particularly vulnerable to these chemicals.
Overall, decreased demand for recycled post-consumer carpet material due to lack of end markets has negatively impacted everyone in the supply chain. Lower oil prices have made virgin products more cost effective than recycled materials. Therefore, as industries look at how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, it’s crucial that there is a shift in how we recycle carpets worldwide.
Disposing carpet not only squanders valuable resources and energy, but also represents a missed opportunity to create recycling jobs as well as make and sell new recycled-content products. Not only could this result in economic gain, but these efforts could also promote greenhouse gas emission reduction. Fluent Conveyors strives to improve the transportation and break down of rugs and carpets, streamlining the recycling process and reducing the costs associated.