Wednesday, December 18, 2013

AB2398 Quarter 3 Report shows modest improvements and efficiency gains

There’s good news as CARE reports its quarterly results as the carpet stewardship organization in California under AB2398. There was a slight uptick in the gross weight of collected and recycled carpet during the past quarter. This was despite the closure of two carpet recycling businesses, which reduced processing capacity. While the gross collected pounds increased to 23.3M, it is estimated that it could be as high as 27M pounds when non-reporters are accounted for.

Gross weight of collected and recycled carpet in California

Another positive statistic is the decreasing amount of collected carpet that cannot be used and is disposed of by landfill. The trend hints that recycling efficiency is improving despite the continued trend of decreasing nylon face fiber. The face fiber data collected from California recyclers shows that nylon may have decreased by about 7 percentage points since the previous quarter while fibers reported as “other” were up.

Continued success in California requires improvements in existing processes but hinges on developing cost effective ways to recycle PET (polyester). CARE is still accepting research proposals from researchers at California universities interested in doing just that. But get your great ideas in soon, as the deadline for submission is this Friday, December 20.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Eric Nelson and Russ Delozier honored at CRI Annual Meeting

CARE would like to heartily congratulate board members Eric Nelson and Russ Delozier as the recipients of the 2013 Joseph J. Smrekar Memorial Award from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI).

The Smrekar award honors the late Dr. Joe Smrekar who served on a number of CRI committees and “set the standard” for service to the carpet and rug industry. Following his untimely death in 1998, Milliken & Company established the award to honor individuals who demonstrate exemplary service to the carpet and rug industry. Recipients are chosen by CRI staff members and for the first time, the vote ended in a tie resulting in two award winners.

Eric Nelson has 15 years of experience in the carpet manufacturing industry and is currently the Vice President of Strategic Alliances for Interface Americas. In 2007, Eric took over Interface’s ReEntry 2.0 program that seeks to recycle all types of carpet yarn and carpet backing. Mr. Nelson serves on the Strategic Issues Leadership Council and is a member of the Caprolactam Advocacy, Landfill, and NSF-140 task groups and the EPR and CARE Panel at CRI. Eric has served on the CARE board since 2008.

Russ Delozier is the Director of Sustainability for J&J Industries, where he manages all of the company’s sustainability initiatives and leads research programs to facilitate the development of new environmental directives. Mr. Delozier serves on the EPR and CARE Panel and the Landfill and NSF-140 task groups. He has served on the CARE board since 2008 and is the longest-serving carpet mill representative on the Carpet America Recovery Effort Board.

“CRI is as strong as its volunteers,” said Carpet and Rug Institute President Werner Braun. “The carpet industry represents an incredible depth and breadth of talented people. In Eric Nelson and Russ Delozier, you see two of the best. CRI is blessed by their energy and support.”

Past winners of the Smrekar award include, Howard Elder Ph.D, Robert Cannon, Alan Luedtke Ph.D, Dr. E.P. “Rusty’’ Willimon, Frank Endrenyi, Carey Mitchell, Jim Jolly, and Dan Frierson.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Save the Date! CARE’s 11th Annual Conference is May 6-8, 2014 in Seattle, WA

The upcoming new year means that the next CARE Annual Conference is just around the corner. 2014 marks our 11th meeting, which will be held May 6-8 at the Renaissance Seattle Hotel in Seattle, Washington.

Are you an Entrepreneur or small business owner? Are you a seller of manufacturing products? Are you a collector? A Customer? A Government Stakeholder? Do you work with or for Carpet Mills or Equipment Companies? Then this is the conference for you.

Don't miss our keynote speaker, Dr. David Crowe, Chief Economist & Senior Vice President at the National Association of Home Builders. Hear him speak to the state of our national economy and drill down to the specifics of flooring and carpet trends in the U.S. Also invited is Ms. Caroll Mortensen, Director of CalRecycle and responsible for the only EPR law on the books, AB 2398.

If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor or exhibitor, now is the time to register. Multiple levels of sponsorship and benefits are available. Contact Anthony Cline for more details.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Freeman Co. seeks to reduce carpet waste at tradeshows

We usually think of carpet as something that lasts years or even decades. However, carpet’s ability to provide comfort, reduce noise, and offer an attractive design makes it a key component of the estimated 100,000 tradeshows and conferences worldwide every year. The floors and aisles around the exhibition booths are covered in carpet that has been selected, cut, and freshly installed specifically for an event that may only run for a few days.

CES 2011 Show Floor (ETC@USC/

Consider the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which featured 3,239 exhibitors over 1.8 million square feet for four days in 2012. As you can see in the picture above, nearly every inch of the show floor is covered in carpet. The large size of these exhibitions and their short lifespan is one of the many reasons why the tradeshow industry is one of the largest users of carpet. Freeman is the largest service provider in this industry and provides logistics for over 11,000 events per year, including 135 of the 250 largest tradeshows in the US.

Freeman has an inventory of 3.2 million square yards of carpet that they rent to clients for events. While Freeman strives to offer their customers a wide variety of carpet including classic, custom and prestige colorfast carpet with borders, patterns and logo applications, they also hold themselves accountable to provide a greener service as well. For example, Freeman uses 98 percent recycled foam carpet padding, and also offers plastic carpet covering (Visqueen) containing between 50 and 75 percent recycled content. 

Beyond the carpets’ actual characteristics, perhaps Freeman’s most laudable practice is their carpet recycling. Following every tradeshow, rather than tearing up and disposing the well-trodden carpet, Freeman transports it back to their warehouses. They match like pieces of carpet together and seam them together into a roll that can be washed and reused. Aisle carpets are typically used 4 to 5 times and booth carpet used 6 times before reseaming isn’t possible or it doesn’t otherwise meet Freeman’s standards.

Recovered and cleaned carpet, ready for another show

A video of the carpet recovery and cleaning process can be seen here.

Freeman uses polypropylene-based carpets because they have the best color accuracy and are easiest to match during reseaming. Unfortunately, this limits the opportunities for carpet recycling once the carpet is considered unusable. In spite of this, Freeman has recycled over 60 million square feet of used aisle carpet since 2006. Some of the carpet is recycled into drainage pipe for septic systems and is reused in the manufacture of pet-related products, while higher-end carpet is sold for reuse in affordable rental housing applications. 

Freeman applies a lifecycle analysis for all the products they use at their tradeshows and is look at improving sustainability beyond carpet. For example, their rental booths are not only reusable, but consist of panels and aluminum that can be easily recycled. Freeman is also now trialing a program to reduce the use of Foamcore and other Styrofoam-backed sign materials.

Freeman’s sustainability efforts were also recently honored by the 2013 Trade Show Executive Readers’ Choice Innovation Awards, which selected Freeman as the winner in the “Most Innovative Green Initiative by a Service Provider” category. The award recognized Freeman for its company-wide sustainability efforts including a recent effort to recycle plastics from various waste streams – including cigarette butts – into new plastic exhibit shelves.

Given the size of the billion-dollar trade show industry, Freeman recognizes the value of small decisions throughout their business. “Small incremental change multiplied over our size and scope can make a huge impact”, says Carrie Freeman Parsons, Vice Chair of Freeman.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Brennen Jensen joins CARE as Project Manager for the California Carpet Stewardship Program

Brennen Jensen is the founder and director/principal of Emerging Ecologies. She has led programs to create sustainable, engaged, and resilient communities inspired by nature. In recent years, her efforts helped to secure over $38 million in funding for environmental programs and diverted over 4 million pounds of waste from local California landfills. We’re pleased to announce that Ms. Jensen is joining CARE to assist in managing the California Carpet Stewardship Program established under AB2398.

Brennen has a BS in Environmental Science Technology with concentrations in Landscape Ecosystems and Wilderness Conservation from Humboldt State University, as well as a BA in Spanish. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Biomimicry in collaboration with Arizona State University. Brennen is the recipient of numerous awards, including the California Department of Conservation Comprehensive Recycling Community Award and Ecology Action Five-Year Service Award.

Brennen has over a decade of experience conceiving and implementing strategic environmental and community-based programs and initiatives that address the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our time. Ms. Jensen served at the helm of the statewide implementation team for Energy Upgrade California helping to unite 58 counties, over 500 cities, and the 4 major California utilities in common purpose. With a background in government, private and non-profit organizations, Brennen has a cooperative facilitative approach that seeks to find creative solutions to complex problems, while expanding localized opportunities for waste and emissions reduction throughout California and beyond.

In her new role, Brennen will be responsible for assisting existing and potential carpet recyclers and processors with general manufacturing, communication, and business issues; managing the expansion of the Rural County Program that provides access to carpet recycling for consumers in rural areas; participating in regular visits and reviews of recycling facilities; and developing education, communications and outreach programs for targeted audiences.

"We are thrilled to have Brennen join the CARE team", says Bob Peoples, Executive Director of CARE. "Brennen brings a solid reputation and significant experience and understanding of the California marketplace to CARE. We look forward to successful growth of the Program under her leadership."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Green chemistry for more sustainable carpet

Although we don’t usually think about the chemistry behind carpet fiber, it’s a major component of carpet sustainability because almost all face fiber is produced from synthetic polymers. Synthetic polymers were discovered nearly 100 years ago but today, green chemistry is rapidly changing the way they are manufactured as well as the polymers themselves.

Joshua Drew Vaughn/Flickr

Green chemistry is a design philosophy that seeks to reduce the impact of chemical substances on humans, animals, plants, and the environment. There are two primary ways to achieve that goal. First, maximize efficiency and reduce or eliminate unnecessary chemicals and processing steps. Second, reduce or eliminate hazardous and toxic chemicals to reduce the risk if exposure occurs. Whether applied to the initial laboratory synthesis or volume manufacturing, green chemistry offers a way to reduce the impact, risk, and expense of chemical production. The core concepts of green chemistry are best demonstrated through the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry:
  1. It is better to prevent waste than to treat it afterward
  2. Design syntheses to maximize incorporation of all materials used into the final product
  3. Use methods that use and generate less hazardous chemicals
  4. Design products that maximize performance while minimizing toxicity
  5. Use safer solvents (or eliminate them completely)
  6. Increase energy efficiency
  7. Use renewable feedstocks
  8. Minimize derivatives
  9. Use catalysts to minimize waste and energy
  10. Design for degradation into the environment
  11. Use real-time analysis to minimize byproducts
  12. Minimize the potential for accidents
What does all that mean for carpet? Let’s take a look at Nylon 6,6.

The traditional synthesis of nylon 6,6 is a two-step process that first combines cyclohexene and nitric acid to produced adipic acid, which is then combined with hexamethylene diamine under high pressure to produce nylon. Cyclohexene is a reasonably safe chemical, but it is produced from benzene, which is obtained from crude oil and is a known carcinogen. Nitric acid also poses environmental risks and the results in the emission of nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas.

How can green chemistry improve this synthesis? Well, instead of using nitric acid, we can use sodium tungstate, Na2WO4, as a catalyst for the first step (Principle #9). The reaction can instead be done under mild conditions in water (Principle #5) and the only byproduct is water (Principle #3). Although using sodium tungstate introduces a heavy metal to the process, because it acts as a catalyst, it is not used up during the reaction and can produce large amounts of adipic acid before needing replacement.

While this is a step in the right direction, there are potentially greener ways to produce adipic acid. Last year, cancer researchers at Duke University derived a new enzyme (the biological equivalent of a catalyst) that catalyzes the conversion of 2-oxoadipate to (R)-2-hydroxyadipate (Principle #9). This is a key step in engineering a biological system to convert sugars to adipic acid. Instead of relying on petroleum, we might one day be able to produce nylon from renewably sourced sugar (Principle #7).

Producing carpet completely from natural feedstocks instead of petroleum would greatly reduce the impact of carpet production. In fact, synthetic polymers for carpet fiber that contain renewable feedstocks are already available. Dupont uses 37% renewable resources in their Sorona polymer, which produces fibers that are both soft and stain resistant. The production of Sorona uses 30% less energy and 63% less greenhouse gases than an equal amount of nylon. Sorona is used in Mohawk’s SmartStrand carpet.

We look forward to seeing how more of the 12 principles become incorporated into carpet production. And until we can shift to rapidly renewable feedstocks, the recycle of post-consumer face fiber remains an important component of continuing to reduce the environmental footprint of this important product.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Drawing inspiration from the successes of used tire recycling

In 2009, 84.9% of nearly 300 million used tires were diverted from landfills nationwide. In 1990, that number was approximately 15%. What factors helped make the tire recycling industry so successful?

California Tire Market Report, 2010

Akin to carpet, used tires are bulky and do not degrade in landfills. Tires also have a huge amount of embedded energy: a single tire requires 5 gallons of oil for raw materials and another 2 gallons of oil to supply the energy for manufacturing (five pounds of oil go into a single pound of nylon). Unlike carpet, whole tires consist of 70% empty space and can fill up with methane when landfilled, causing them to become buoyant, float to the top, and damage the landfill’s liner.

Minnesota was the first state to ban whole tires from landfills in 1985 and since then haveve been banned from an additional 38 states. While tire stockpiles existed prior to the landfill bans, they began to grow quickly after the bans were enacted. Improperly stored tires can serve as mosquito and rodent breeding grounds. While tires cannot be ignited easily, once lit, they are very difficult to extinguish and release thick, black toxic smoke.

A series of tire fires during the 1980s and 90s put pressure on policy makers for a solution. In 1983, a fire in Winchester, Virginia burned several million tires and was declared a Superfund site. A grass fire ignited an unlicensed tire stockpile in Tracy, California in August 1998 and burned for 26 months before finally being extinguished. During that period, a second tire fire broke out in Wesley, California from a lightning strike.

California lawmakers were galvanized by the fires and authorized CalRecycle to manage the tire waste stream. The fee on tire sales was increased in order to fund an array of grants, loans, and incentives for producers and potential users of tire-derived products. The program provided basic support and technical advice for launching products and navigating the approval process for public works projects. Since nobody wants to be the first to use a new product, case studies were commissioned to demonstrate the benefits of the new products. California, other states, and the federal governments used procurement policies to drive the market for tire-derived products.

There are now numerous applications for reused or downcycled tires.  One-third of all diverted tires are used for rubberized asphalt or ground cover for playgrounds and running tracks. Whole or shredded tires can be reused as barriers around racetracks, bumpers on docks, or civil engineering projects to form embankments or improve soil drainage. Given the inherent energy in tires, nearly one-half of diverted tires are used for waste-to-energy fuel production.

Surface America PlayBound

As you can see, there were many factors that helped make tire recycling successful. Tires were stockpiled long before any regulation because they were recognized as valuable but no viable products could be brought to market. An unfortunate series of disasters led California lawmakers to establish a fund to provide market assistance to companies to bring new products to market. Over time, the market approach has been successful and the industry has matured to include several viable companies. California exceeded a 90% diversion rate for tires for the first time in 2012.

CARE is working closely with the carpet industry, recycling entrepreneurs and local municipalities to tackle the challenges of carpet recycling. Carpet is not a hazardous waste like tires, but it does contain valuable raw materials and energy which can be recovered and recycled.   The aspirational goal of CARE is that no carpet goes to landfill in the future. We are looking for great ideas to help accomplish this goal.  Contact CARE’s Executive Director, Bob Peoples at to learn more.

Monday, October 21, 2013

CARE seeks California researchers to demonstrate new uses for recycled PET

Carpets made from polyester (a.k.a. polyethylene terephthalate or PET) are becoming increasingly popular. While PET made up just 4% of the post-consumer carpet (PCC) stream in 2007, at least 29% of California’s landfill-diverted carpet now consists of PET. While some of the PCC PET can be reprocessed into value-added materials such as carpet underpads, much of it is sent back to the landfill due to a lack of viable outputs. To help find new markets for this material, CARE is seeking to fund research proposals from researchers at California universities.

Carpet Face Fiber Material
N6, N66, PP, and PET refer to nylon-6, nylon-66, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate. Data is based on reports by California recyclers. Parentheses indicate the change in percentage from previous quarter. Source: CARE California AB2398 2013Q2 Results

PET is one of the most ubiquitous plastics and makes up one-sixth of global plastics production. You may be more familiar with PET in the form of a soda bottle or a polyester sweater, but PET also makes up a large amount of carpet fiber. While much of that virgin PET goes into textiles, polyester carpet is a common and growing output for recycled soda bottles.

Each time PET is recycled, it is contaminated with dyes and additives and the melting process leads to degradation, decreased strength, and optical cloudiness. The sheer amount of recycled PET available keeps prices low and the low price of virgin PET prevents chemical reprocessing into a virgin-like material. Unlike nylon, the brittleness of PET limits its reuse in embedded fibers or engineered resins. While nylon is a money maker for carpet recyclers, PET carpet cuts into their bottom line.

What would it take for the carpet industry to consider blending PCC PET back into flake for extrusion into PET carpet fiber? What are some new uses and applications for PCC PET? CARE will provide research grants to researchers at a California university who are interested in exploring these questions. The research proposal should be a multidisciplinary effort including materials science, product development, and market analysis and modeling. The deadline for submissions is December 20, 2013. Learn more about the grant and application process.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Interface uses recovered fishing nets for new carpet

Discarded fishing gear is a huge problem. A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 640,000 tons of fishing gear is discarded annually that washes up on beaches, sinks to the ocean floor, collects in floating garbage patches, and tangles fish, birds, and other wildlife. Typically made from nylon to improve its stability in salt water, it takes centuries for the fishing gear to biodegrade.

Carpet manufacturer Interface and the Zoological Society of London have teamed up to form NetWorks, a joint-initiative to collect abandoned nylon fishing gear and turn it into new carpets by reprocessing the nylon.

A pilot project at the Danajon Bank in the Philippines involved 892 local fishers and their families collecting discarded nets in exchange for rice. Local families live in extreme poverty and the program provides a practical alternative to fishing as catches decline from overfishing. The program has recovered nine tons of discarded fishing gear during the one-year pilot. NetWorks hopes to expand the program to neighboring areas in the Philippines and beyond.

After collection, the recovered fishing gear is sent to Aquafil, which reprocesses the nylon into fresh yarns using their Econyl process. The yarns, made of 100 percent recycled material, is then sold back to Interface for manufacturing carpet tiles. Interface is launching a new product line called Net Effect, which will be made from the recovered fishing gear and consists of up to 81 percent total recycled content.

By creating a new market for discarded fishing nets, the NetWorks project will help reduce pollution and alleviate hunger in more places as it expands. We hope that it encourages fisherman to recognize the value of their nets and to prevent pollution at the source.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Handling with Care

CARE’s executive director Bob Peoples was recently published in the Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine. You can read his story, “Handling with Care” on the C&D webpage. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Nycon-G uses recycled carpet for better, crack-free concrete

Everyone is familiar with the sight of steel “rebar” embedded in reinforced concrete, but you’d probably think twice about adding used carpet to concrete.

The use of fibers to improve building materials is a centuries-old technique. Animal hair was commonly used in plaster and mud bricks during the Middle Ages. Asbestos fiber was added to concrete during the early twentieth century. Fiber-reinforced concrete has better impact resistance and toughness than normal concrete, making it less likely to break into pieces.

Nycon pioneered the use of synthetic fibers, especially nylon, for reinforcing concrete during the 1980s. Both polypropylene and nylon fiber are especially good for preventing cracking in concrete. The fibers can stretch or shrink as the concrete around it contracts or expands, such as during temperature changes. Additionally, the fibers prevent any microscopic cracks that do form from growing into larger cracks.

Nycon found that the advantage of using nylon is that it’s stable in most conditions and stronger than polypropylene fibers. Nylon can be treated so the fibers’ surface bonds with concrete, allowing them to be mixed together with ease. Unlike polypropylene, nylon doesn’t float to the surface and is unnoticeable in the finished product.

The main disadvantage of using nylon is that it’s expensive– it costs almost twice as much per pound as polypropylene. Fortunately, there’s another source for nylon fiber: recycled carpet! The short fibers found in carpet are ideal for processing into fiber for improving concrete once removed from the backing and unbundled from the yarns. The multi-step process was developed and patented by Paul Bracegirdle and licensed to Nycon.

Nycon sells the processed, reclaimed carpet fibers as part of their Nycon-G product line, which typically sells for 20% less than its virgin-material counterpart. Testing has shown that there’s no difference in crack-prevention performance between Nycon-G and using virgin nylon (see a video of Nycon-G in action).

“Nycon-G has been fairly well accepted by the customers and used primarily due to lower cost than virgin,” says Paul Bracegirdle.

In addition to being less expensive, sourcing nylon from the carpet waste stream saves water, energy, and emissions while keeping valuable materials out of landfills!

The Heldrich Hotel and Conference Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey
relied on approximately 500 precast concrete panels that were
improved with Nycon-G.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Corporate Floors Inc. Sees Bigger Picture

In 1994 Thomas Holland founded Corporate Floors Inc. with nothing more than one truck and one employee. Fast forward nearly twenty years and he now has a national services company with four locations throughout Texas (Grapevine, Austin, San Antonio and Houston) and over 88 ‘solutionists.’

Holland’s moniker for his employees is fitting given back in 2007 Holland himself solved a very large problem. It all started when Holland, over a decade into the carpet world, could no longer watch such a valuable resource go to landfills. Unfortunately, when he began to look for alternative outlets to the dump he found none. Rather than throw up his hands in defeat and pat himself on the back for trying, Holland made it his personal mission to find a solution.

Less than a year later Texas Carpet and Construction Recycling (TCR) was born. Local economic conditions, including supply, demand, and landfill tipping fees, typically dictate whether a collector and/or processor can charge to accept the material, take it for free, or pay its supplier. Fortunately for Holland, Corporate Floors Inc. wasn’t the only one who wanted to be more sustainable. Within a matter of months Texas Carpet Recycling had partnered with the real estate giant CB Richard Ellis, carpet giant Shaw Contact Group, among others. In fact, demand for ‘green’ was so big that Holland’s original 3,000 square-foot facility could not keep up. Today the company has a 32,000 square-foot space where it regularly sorts, bales and grinds carpet from dozens of companies.  TCR also diverts VCT, ceiling tiles and other post construction materials from landfill.

Texas Carpet Recycling is only one aspect of Holland’s green conscience.

In fact, perhaps more green than recycling is Corporate Floors Inc.’s cleaning and maintenance services. Holland was quick to recognize that carpet is one of the most costly features of any businesses’ built environment. Beyond the fact that it takes a beating every time someone walks through a facility, it affects how people feel and act.  There is no greater impact to a corporate budget or sustainability program than simply prolonging the life of their assets, including flooring, with proper maintenance.

Accordingly, Corporate Floors Inc. cleans over 40,000,000 square feet of carpet annually using the MilliCare dry carpet cleaning system, saving over 1.7 million gallons of water over traditional carpet cleaning. Using fewer chemicals, water, and effort, Corporate Floors Inc. has systems that protect carpet and upholstered furniture (MilliCare), floors (Waxnomore, Slipnomor, Marknomor), and tile & grout (saniGLAZE). For example, Corporate Floors Inc. uses Vital Oxide, a food grade, broad-spectrum antimicrobial, odorless, colorless, cleaning agent that has been certified by USEPA to kill mold, bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc. without creating other harmful byproducts that traditional bleaching produces. An added bonus for the environment of course is that by extending floors’ lifetimes, Corporate Floors Inc. is also doing their part to reduce waste.  It should perhaps be mentioned that Corporate Floors Inc. walks their talk by managing their own internal recycling program for all paper, plastic and packaging.  In addition to recycling the carpet on all jobs, Corporate Floors also recycles the packaging it comes in.

To seal the green deal, Holland established a partnership with American Forests and for every ton of carpet diverted from landfills Corporate Floors Inc. plants a tree. To date that means 3,500 trees planted, and not in a monoculture orchard or random pattern; American Forests plantings are guided by science with consideration to what is the best mix of species to achieve optimal habitat, water filtration, and air purification.

CARE is fortunate to have Holland’s experience and insight on the board and looks forward to learning about the future innovative projects Corporate Floors Inc. is likely to roll out.