As a recap to our 13th Annual Conference hosted in New Orleans earlier this month, Santiago Montero of Floor Covering Weekly recently covered CARE’s latest accomplishments and challenges in PET carpet recycling. Check out the interview with CARE’s Executive Director Dr. Bob Peoples below and online here.
“As a scientist, my goal is to change the world and make it a better place through science and through green chemistry,” Dr. Bob Peoples told the participants of the 13th annual CARE conference held here. As executive director of CARE, the Carpet America Recovery Effort, he is doing exactly that.
Now in his second stint at the helm of CARE, the organization’s focus is to “facilitate market-based solutions to reduce and recycle postconsumer carpet and to encourage design for recyclability.”
Achieving that mission just got a lot tougher as the low price of oil, expanding regulatory requirements and the growth of PET have all conspired to keep carpet recycling activity flat. This has resulted in pressure under a California statute (AB2398) that calls for “continuous and meaningful improvement” which has been difficult to achieve in this environment.
According to People’s, “The challenges as an industry are how to deal with the economics that are underpinned by the drop in the price of oil and how to deal with this rapid increase of PET in the market place.”
As oil prices drop, so too does the incentive and the economic model which drives much of recycling activity. As a result, CARE, with funding from the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI), established a Voluntary Stewardship Program that provides rebates to recyclers to encourage them to continue focusing on carpet recycling and to provide them the financial support to do so.
The $4.5 million, 2-year program is designed to be a bridge and offers 2 cents a pound for every pound of recycled carpet sold and shipped, but does not cover anything that is sent to a landfill. That program is being lauded by both CARE and the CRI as a great success.
Peoples added, “Most people don’t understand how fundamentally tied the price of oil is tied to everything we do. It is affecting every recycled commodity in the world today.”
The PET Conundrum
PET has made huge inroads in the carpet industry and while it is highly recyclable, no one has found a way to recycle it after it goes into carpet. That remains one of CARE’s biggest challenges.
As a way of solving the problem, CARE has also funded research at the University of Connecticut to use recycled PET in other building materials products.
“For me, the key is market outlets,” said Peoples. “If there are no market outlets, there’s no reason to collect this stuff. That’s what we’re trying to build.”
In the face of such obstacles, Peoples remains optimistic. “We have to stay focused on our goal: how do we increase the landfill diversion and recycling of postconsumer carpet? When we started there was no carpet to carpet recycling; there was not a single piece of equipment engineered, designed or built to handle carpet and carpet is hard to handle. There is no question that without CARE there would be a lower level of recycling.”
Other notable CARE accomplishments: working with industry veteran Frank Endrenyi to help further solutions to the PET problem; the development of technologies to help differentiate between PET and PTT; a product catalog of postconsumer carpet; a recycling challenge program with Starnet members; and, a coalition of other stewardship organizations to promote recycling of mattresses, carpet, paint, batteries and thermostats.
As the economics of recycling have changed, the organization has had to adapt and CARE has done that. As Peoples is known to say, “Success is perseverance one more minute.”