Northwest carpet recycling industry to expand

Recycling most of the 50,000 tons of used carpet generated annually in Seattle and King County that is currently going into landfills is the goal of a new carpet recycling strategy by King County and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU).

In order to divert used and scrap carpet from the landfill and to boost recycling, the King County Solid Waste Division’s LinkUp program and SPU organized a Carpet Recycling Workgroup comprised of state and local governments and research university representatives from Washington, Oregon, California, and British Columbia.

The result of the collaboration is the Northwest Carpet Recycling Strategy, which aims to increase demand for carpet recycling and drive demand for commodities derived from and products made with recovered carpet fiber.

The multi-agency workgroup gathered input from industry experts and stakeholders to create the strategy. The workgroup hosted two business roundtable sessions with industry stakeholders to gain input while developing the plan. Parties provided input about what were the most important activities needed to get carpet recycling established in the region.

The findings from these roundtable sessions were then combined with input from the workgroup members and a list of possible strategies and tactics emerged. The workgroup then prioritized and combined tactics into the recommended actions included in the final Northwest Carpet Recycling Strategy.

The strategy also includes action items to pursue product stewardship measures such as legislation, memoranda of understanding, product redesign, closed loop recycling, and take back programs. The goal of such activities is to utilize solid waste and other public policies to influence costs and facilitate the flow of quality material toward recycling.

Other actions outlined in the strategy include reduction of asbestos contamination in used carpet, formation of a consortium focused on bringing a carpet processing facility to the Northwest and continued collaboration between interested parties.

A number of items in the action plan are already under way, and some co exist with other programs in both the public and private sectors. The priority items that King County LinkUp and SPU will be working on in the near term include increasing demand for carpet recycling and driving demand for commodities derived from and made with recovered carpet fiber. The strategy will be implemented over the next couple of years.

According to the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) 2008 Annual Report, of the 2,821,000 tons of post consumer carpet discarded in 2008 in the United States, 122,000 tons (243 million pounds) or 4 percent was recycled. Currently, most of the 50,000 tons of used and scrap carpet generated in Seattle and King County is being landfilled; area solid waste agencies estimate that only a very small percentage is recycled.