A Look at the Current Challenges and Opportunities for PET Carpet

Posted on June 16, 2014

With approximately 4 billion pounds of carpet deposited in landfills each year, you might think CARE’s greatest challenge lies in the sheer amount of post-consumer carpet produced. However, our expert team and partners are currently challenged to create recycling options based on carpet fiber varieties – and for one type in particular.

Polyester, or PET, fiber has recently grown in popularity because it produces carpet with a lustrous appearance, offers stain resistant benefits and contributes to an eco-friendly design. But at the end of its useable life, PET carpet doesn’t have the luxury of an established network of recyclers and raw material opportunities that nylon fiber varieties have come to enjoy.

The current challenges of PET carpet recycling can be summarized in two key points:

Economics

First, the economics of PET are quite different when compared to nylon. The price of virgin nylon is high enough to allow this material to be recovered and recycled profitably. On the other hand, the cost of virgin PET and resulting products are often much lower.  Combined with global over-supply and even lower priced recycled bottle flake, this narrows the possibility of worthwhile profitability for recyclers.

Properties

Second, PET and nylon have very different properties. Recycled nylon material can be used to create construction materials, automotive parts, new carpet and more. However, PET’s next life is usually limited to  carpet fiber pads or felts. There is not currently a wide breadth of new products that can be created from recycled post-consumer carpet derived PET content.

Opportunities on the horizon for PET

To approach and overcome these challenges, CARE is actively working to develop viable options for recycling PET carpet. We have identified many possibilities, and are working  to bring to life high volume outlets for PET over the next few years.

To increase the opportunities and demand for PET in the meantime, we encourage architects and designers to specify a fiber pad created with PET content for new carpet installation projects or GeoHay for sediment and erosion control on building, construction and highway projects – both commercially available today.  EcoStrate is a new material currently available in limited quantities now.  Visit the CARE website and download the new product brochure for contact information.

Many companies, both small and large, are working on this challenge. We are confident that we will find a solution for PET just as we did for nylon many years ago.