JULY 2008

Washington State strives to step up carpet recovery

Companies representing carpet and flooring manufacturing, carpet fiber production, flooring installation, recycling and sorting, waste management and economic development met with local solid waste agencies in Seattle to discuss the future of carpet recycling in the Pacific Northwest.

Organized by Seattle Public Utilities, with support by King County’s LinkUp Program, and hosted by enterpriseSeattle, an economic development organization, the forum provided an opportunity to share information about current carpet collection, sorting and recycling, plans to increase carpet recycling, challenges, end-markets and the potential for establishing processing capacity in the region.

Efforts are already underway to decrease carpet waste. A Tacoma-based construction and demolition debris processing company, Recovery 1, a LinkUp alumni partner, segregates, bales and ships four carpet types to recycling facilities located elsewhere in the country.

Government purchasing programs are aware of opportunities to divert carpet from landfill. The State of Washington currently has a flooring contract, used by many local governments, that mandates carpet reclamation. The contract expires in June, and a new contract with the same reclamation provision is currently being pursued.

One of the biggest obstacles in carpet recycling in the western United States is that carpet manufacturers and carpet recycling facilities are located in Georgia. Because of that distance, shipping adds to the cost of recycling carpet, making it more difficult to compete with non-recycled feedstocks.

Shirli Axelrod, of the City of Seattle’s Resource Conservation Department, organized the carpet forum and is spearheading efforts to move carpet away from the waste stream. According to Axelrod, the next steps for the region’s carpet recovery efforts involve supporting local infrastructure development; engaging parties from the building industry to local manufacturers who can influence the quality, quantity, and end use of carpet being removed; reviewing policies and solid waste rates; considering opportunities to create incentives and removing obstacles that hinder carpet recycling success.

“There is a lot of interest in possibly starting a processing plant here to enhance recovery,” Axelrod said.

A national effort to increase carpet recycling has been in place since 2002, when the carpet industry joined with federal, state and local governments and other organizations to establish the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), which is funded and administered by the carpet industry. A Memorandum of Understanding committed the group, which included the State of Washington, to a common goal of significantly decreasing the amount of post-consumer carpet in the nation’s waste stream. The goal is to divert 40 percent of post-consumer carpet waste from landfills by 2012.