Question

I'm getting new carpet in my house and trying to find out where in my local area I can dispose of my old carpet and pad properly?

Asked by Lynette
Macomb, MI

I live in Macomb, MI, and have over 1300 sq feet of carpet and pad to dispose of.

Answer

Cynthia Phakos

Answered by Cynthia Phakos

Los Angeles, CA

Koffka Phakos Design

September 7, 2010

I answered a similar question in June of 2007 for a person in California, which is the state I am from. When I saw your question, I wanted to revisit this topic to see if the world has changed in 3 years.

  • In 2007, I was not able to find someone to recycle her carpet, but I am happy to report that I found an avenue for you to pursue to recycle yours.
  • Things are progressing, though we are certainly not there yet.
  • As there is no nationwide infrastructure in place for recycling carpet at this time, options are those that are available locally. As you will see, finding a carpet recycler can be a slow, patient search.

My research has found that there are 1.8 million tons of carpet going into landfill, which is the amount I reported in 2007. CARE’s website gives the amount of carpet that was discarded, recycled and diverted each year since 2002.

  • In 2008 we saw a slight decrease in carpet recycling and diversion from 2007 given the economy.
  • But there was an increase of 1.2% in 2009 over that in 2008.

Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE)

My first step in finding carpet recycling options in your area was to visit the website for CARE, the Carpet America Recovery Effort.

This is a joint industry/government venture founded to increase the amount of recycling and reuse of post-consumer carpet and to reduce the amount of waste carpet going to landfills. CARE, which began in 2001, has a useful site for locating recycling facilities. It also has a great deal of general information about carpet recycling.

  • A map of the U.S. on CARE’s website lists Great Lakes Recycling in Roseville, Michigan, which appears to be very close to you, and is the only facility listed in Michigan. I called the company and found that they can recycle your foam carpet pad (if it is foam), but for carpet they mainly handle commercial recycling.
  • I was then able to find a contact person on the CARE site for the carpet recycling division, Steve Rosen. He explained that they can only recycle certain kinds of carpet, hence I believe the distinction between residential and commercial carpet, but said that if you were to send a 2" x 2" sample of the carpet and the pad he would send it to the testing lab and let you know if they can recycle it. You can send the sample with your contact information to: Steve Rosen, Great Lakes Recycling, 30821 Groesbeck Highway, Roseville, MI, 48066.
  • I also Googled “carpet recycling Michigan” and got the website for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment. I spoke to a person in the recycling division, whose first suggestion was to speak to the vendor of the carpet that you are purchasing to see if they have any recycling options.

Carpet recycling is most often done by carpet manufacturers

Recycling of carpet is most often done by carpet manufacturers, so if there are any carpet manufacturers in your area, you might try contacting them.

  • When it comes to recycling, carpet pads are much easier to recycle, as they are typically made of a single material.
  • Carpet, on the other hand, is composed of a face fiber and backing. The face fiber could be wool, nylon, polyester, olefin or a blend of materials. The backing material for a residential carpet is typically a latex product, and for a commercial carpet is typically polyvinyl chloride, which is easier to recycle. Nylon 6 and 6.6 are face fibers that are more easily recycled than olefin or polypropylene, which are also recyclable. Polyester carpets are not recyclable at this time.

Recycling carpet into backing is a form of downcycling, as the recycled product is in a degraded state from the original fiber. Carpet manufacturers who practice zero waste in their recycling process will also burn the carpet waste as a way of generating electricity.

As there becomes a greater focus on the environmental impact of a product, carpet manufacturers are developing new products and materials that make recycling possible.

Closed loop recycling

Manufacturers are striving for a closed-loop system where the face fiber and carpet backing can be recycled back into the same carpet after its useful life (with a Cradle-to-Cradle rating).

  • Shaw is now producing a residential line of Anso nylon face fiber and backing that can be recycled back into the same product without degrading the carpet fibers. 
  • Through a heating process, the post-consumer carpet is melted back into its original state with the face fiber and the backing melting at different temperatures as the method of separation.

Reuse

There are other ways to divert carpet from the landfill, with reuse being the most effective method as it retains the original purpose.

  • If your carpet is in good condition, you might donate it.
  • Some Habitat for Humanity ReStore outlets will take carpet in good condition.
  • You might also consider making area rugs from your carpet and reusing them in your own home.

Give preference to carpets that are recyclable

As you are also planning to purchase a new carpet, you are in a position to consider what you will do at the end of its useful life, and preference should be given to those carpets that are recyclable.

Some manufacturers advocate leasing programs where they will take back the carpet after its useful life.

Also of importance is where the carpet comes from. As 90% of the carpet made in the U.S. is manufactured in Dalton, Georgia, transportation of the carpet you choose increases its embodied energy. Often when you order carpet there is a lead time which represents the time it takes a manufacturer in Georgia to put the carpet on a truck and transport it to you.

 

For more information:

Read Cynthia Phakos's Q&A "Do you have any tips for finding an eco-friendly rug?"

Also, read William Janhonen's Q&A "I want low VOC carpet to replace my old carpeting. What are the best -- and least toxic -- conventional choices?"

Tagged In: reuse, green carpet

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