In the world of post-consumer carpet (PCC) recycling only a handful of companies simultaneously play the roles of the collector, sorter, processor and manufacturer.
Services provided by CARE Annual Survey Respondents
CARE Annual Report, 2012
Working in partnership with Reliance Carpet Cushion, Los Angeles (LA) Fiber Company happens to be one of 7% of companies that handle PCC from collection all the way to manufacture.In doing so Stan and Ron Greitzer, owners and founders, manage to avoid one of carpet recycling’s highest hurdles — finding markets for PCC.LA Fiber did not start out with carpet as their premier source material however.
Founded in 1983, LA Fiber’s original market was processing PET bottles into fiberfill, eventually transitioning to recycling textile waste from the garment industry. The company had plenty of feedstock until 1998 when revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) pushed American textile companies to move processing offshore.
In the face of a serious setback, LA Fiber recognized a huge opportunity; once again capitalizing on the age-old adage ‘one mans trash is another man’s treasure,’ Stan and Ron converted their fiber-reclaiming machinery to handle and process PCC. With over five billion pounds of carpet being sent to landfills across the nation per year, LA Fiber acquired an essentially endless supply stream.
Beyond recognition of a great source material, the Greitzers also realized an important outlet, Reliance Carpet Cushion. Founded back in 1931 by Stan’s father, Ron’s grandfather, for eighty years Reliance was one of the largest suppliers of foam, fibers, spring coils, etc. to top brand mattress companies including Serta and Sealy.With respect to Reliance Carpet Cushion, although it had been around since the 1960s, it wasn’t until Reliance’s partnership with LA Fiber that the product was able to transform from its original makeup of scrap foam and synthetic fibers to become the 100% recycled eco-carpet cushion it is today.
Beyond material recovery, Reliance Carpet Cushion is made with no chemical additives, meets stringent standards for indoor air quality, and is resistant to mold, mildew, and bacterial growth. For buildings striving for LEED credit, Reliance Carpet Cushion gets points for recycled content (MR 4.1/4.2) and low emissions (EQ 4.3).
Demand for the earth-friendly carpet cushion continues to grow but while Reliance Carpet Cushion is LA Fiber’s primary outlet, it is not their only one. Processed Nylon 6 and 6,6, PP and PET fibers are also sold as engineered resins, contributing to products ranging from automobiles to decorative pillows. Today LA Fiber is one of the principal West coast recyclers of carpet and other textiles, recovering over 60 million pounds of PCC a year.
Their dedication to carpet recycling is not unnoticed. Back in 2003 LA Fiber was the first company to be named by CARE as the Recycler of the Year, setting the bar high as a true trailblazer for success in carpet recycling. LA Fiber continued to acquire more honors including being awarded CARE’s Person of the Year in 2006 (Ron), for Innovations in Carpet Recycling by the US EPA in 2008 and another CARE Recycler of the Year award in 2010, among other honorable distinctions.
As for the future, California has an ambitious goal of zero waste by 2020 and Ron sees bulky items such as carpet and furniture as key to making this intention a reality. Fortunately, since AB2398’s passage into law by former Governor Schwarzenegger in September 2010 PCC recycling carpet in California is becoming easier every day. Similar to all laws and ordinances, Ron recognizes that AB2398 is not without its growing pains but he believes the extra funding has made a big difference for carpet recycling, not to mention job growth.
Overall, AB2398 has made some major strides in a short period of time, especially considering all systems, procedures and protocols for its administration had to be created from scratch. As the Carpet Stewardship Organization in charge of administering AB2398 in its formative years, CARE is dedicated to ensuring its continued success and is excited to see how the innovative legislation continues to benefit inspiring entrepreneurs such as LA Fiber.
Frank Endrenyi has been involved with the carpet industry since 1974 and comes to CARE with a wealth of experience. Among his many career accomplishments, including the development of three patents, Frank served as the Vice President of Marketing, Vice President of Product Development and Vice President of Sustainable Development during his distinguished career at Mohawk Industries. As the VP of Sustainable Development Frank was responsible for the development of Mohawk’s signature GreenWorksTM program.
Frank first brought his expertise in reducing, reusing, recycling and renewing to CARE all the way back at the beginning in 2002. From CARE’s formative year up until 2009, Frank served on the board as an industry representative, playing an integral role in the organization’s growth and development.
In December of 2009 Frank left Mohawk Industries and his board position at CARE to form his own company, Sustainable Materials Solutions. Frank was not away from CARE for long however. In early 2010 he returned to the board as an independent entrepreneurial advisor and chairman of CARE’s PET Opportunities sub-team.
The PET opportunities sub-team was formed in response to the growing portion of PET fiber that constitutes the post-consumer carpet stream. As the team delved into market research it became evident that finding viable outlets for PET required significantly more time than they could volunteer. Accordingly, in June of this year the CARE Board issued a request for proposal for a PET project leader.
Frank began his one-year contract in mid-July and he is very excited about his new opportunity. Through the course of Frank’s impressive career he has been very successful in helping companies find and develop recycling technologies for Nylon 6 and 6,6 fibers, and, as he pointed out in a recent conversation, “the skills I developed while working with Nylon are directly applicable to what now needs to happen for PET.”
However, unlike his work with Nylon, Frank is well aware that PET does not have the benefit of a ready-made market. That is, once post consumer carpet recyclers figured out how to purify post-consumer Nylon 6 and Nylon 6,6 fibers, the fibers already had various outlets in the plastics industry including appliances, automotive parts, etc.The absence of these existing markets for processed PET carpet fiber is what Frank called his “biggest hurdle and challenge”; basically, unlike Nylon, the cost of virgin PET is much lower; and that, coupled with lack of abundant present end use markets, makes PET carpet recycling a challenge.
This value hurdle is an increasingly important one to clear. In 2012 PET fiber made up 25% of the post-consumer carpet stream and Frank expects it to grow up to 45% in the next five years. Fortunately, Frank’s entrepreneurial personality sees only opportunity. Frank describes his strategy for the next year as a three-prong approach.
First, Frank plans to generate a list of all the possible technologies that could be used to recycle PET fiber into various purities; essentially making a database that identifies processes, costs and outputs.
Second, he aims to match outputs with potential end users. That is, not all outlets of post-consumer PET fiber will require PET of the utmost purity. For the economics to work, Frank sees the process of matching the physical properties of various purities to the price and quality needs of various products as essential.
Third, after identifying the right end use products to match varying process technologies’ outputs, he must work with companies to develop these markets. Frank will focus his energy wherever the conditions are ripe. Once local markets are established the key will be to expand developments across the nation.
CARE also recently initiated a new non-nylon incentive for users of fiber output derived from California post-consumer carpet. While program details are still being finalized, CARE believes this is yet another catalyst to aid Frank in his important work.
Overall Frank is very optimistic about the future of PET and sees his previous experience with Nylon as directly applicable to the task at hand; “My ultimate goal is to identify and develop a variety of high value PET markets that can take millions and millions of pounds per year.”
CARE is as excited as Mr. Endrenyi and looks forward to reporting advances in the coming year!
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fibers first found their way into the carpet industry in the 1960s but it wasn’t until the 1990s that technology allowed ‘pop bottle carpets,’ or carpets made from recycled PET bottles, to take off.
One early example is Mohawk Industries everSTRAND® carpet. Since its introduction in 1999 everSTRAND®has saved more than 24 billion bottles from entering landfills. This breaks down to roughly 30 to 45 two-liter plastic bottles kept out of landfills for every square yard of PET carpet produced.
Beyond reducing the extraction of virgin materials for its production, because PET carpet is extraordinarily resistant to stains, it does not require the stain resistant treatments many nylon carpets undergo during their manufacture and lifetime. Furthermore, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, PET fiber can be easily dyed vibrant colors that are extremely fade resistant.
Accordingly, the success of Mohawk’s everSTRAND®carpet led the way for other carpet manufacturers to develop PET lines including Shaw’s ClearTouch® and Beaulieu’s Green Smart® carpets among others.
Over the past 20 years new technologies have been developed by carpet manufacturers that have contributed to the enhanced performance of PET carpet as compared to PET carpets from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Since PET carpets are extremely cost competitive, they are especially suited for Multi-family housing, where carpet is changed on a much higher replacement cycle than carpet from single family homes; Therefore PET carpet (on average) tends to have a shorter life cycle.
Subsequently, according to the results of CARE’s annual survey, PET carpet has rapidly grown to an estimated 24% of the total post-consumer carpet (PCC) collection stream. This is a noteworthy 5% increase in just one year and brings into question PET carpet’s primary challenge; what to do with post-consumer carpet?
Post-Consumer Carpet Fiber Type Trends, 2008-2012
CARE Annual Report, 2012
While the market to recycle PET carpet into fiber pad exists, it is quite small in comparison to the amount of post consumer PET carpet being collected. Thus, at this moment the majority of PET carpet diverted ends up either being landfilled or sent to waste to energy processes. Accordingly, finding viable markets for post-consumer PET carpet is one area where CARE is devoting increasing attention.
To begin, CARE has provided a platform for representatives of the plastics industry to openly exchange ideas with the carpet industry. Specifically, at CARE’s tenth annual conference in 2012 there were at least half a dozen representatives from the plastics industry in attendance. CARE continues to focus on the development of technologies for non-nylon face fiber with a variety of initiatives.
More recently CARE announced an opening for a PET Project leader to exclusively focus on the development of markets for post-consumer PET carpet. From the many applications received, CARE is excited to welcome an industry expert and long-time CARE board member, Frank Endrenyi. Frank is very excited about his new opportunity. As he points out, when he first started his involvement in CARE Nylon 6,6 was a fiber without a post-consumer market and now Nylon 6,6 has a variety of valuable outlets. With strategy and time he believes PET fiber will have its share of viable afterlives as well.
Stay tuned to learn more about Mr. Endrenyi’s background and the challenges and opportunities of his new position! In the meantime, if you have ideas on how to use PET fiber, please contact Frank at (404) 431-6050.
CARE is proud to announce its most recent partnership with CCA Global Partners.The partnership was appropriately broadcasted this week at Carpet One Floor & Home’s ‘Power of Partnership’ conference in Denver.
Founded in 1984, Carpet One Floor & Home is North America’s leading floor-covering retailer. Well-known for their Beautiful GuaranteeTM, which vows that customers will be 100% happy with their floor or the job redone, Carpet One Floor & Home has rapidly grown to almost 1,000 independently owned and operated stores in the United States and abroad.
CCA Global Partners is dedicated to helping independent business owners such as Carpet One Floor & Home reach a higher level of success both personally and professionally. Specifically, as a result of CCA guidance, Carpet One Floor & Home now provides members with creative, multi-media materials, a national website, and a team dedicated to every form of social media and public relations, among other advantages.
With 13 distinct businesses and more than 2,700 locations CCA Global Partnersis one of the largest privately held companies in the United States and has collectively produced annual sales in the billions of dollars.
Accordingly, CARE is very excited to now have CCA Global Partners on board as an official corporate sponsor. Bob Peoples, director of CARE, who was present at the conference said, “Our members have been asking to engage retailers. Carpet One is an outstanding way to do this and CCA Global Partners is an outstanding organization with which to work.” Carpet One Floor & Home also demonstrated their support by encouraging their members to extend their patronage to CARE as well.As Eric Damaree, President of Carpet One Floor & Home stated, “our partnership with CARE is just another way that we are helping our members to be more environmentally conscious” (PRWeb, 2013).
Overall the two-day event facilitated great networking between people passionate about what they do. Networking was enhanced by a mobile app that Carpet One Floor & Home developed for the conference so that attendees could conveniently access maps, speaker information, schedules, vendor information and social sharing.
Other conference highlights included the introduction of some alternative new flooring products such as Groutable LVT and Verostone, an appearance by TV personas ‘Accidental Housewife’ Julie Edelman, and a memorable closing event at Sport’s Authority’s Mile High field, the home of the Denver Broncos.
CARE looks forward to the future of their relationship with CCA Global Partners and the many exciting opportunities it will bring.
Hot off the press, CARE’s Annual Report to CalRecycle! Now on its 8th quarter as the Carpet Stewardship Organization approved by CalRecycle to manage AB2398, CARE is pleased to announce that data clearly indicates an increase in carpet being diverted from landfills but an increase in recycling as well. Specifically, 14% of the PCC stream is being recycled, 2% above the 2012 goal of 12%.
Recycled Output by Type as a Percent of Diversion
CARE Annual Report to CalRecycle, 2013
Reuse on the other hand remains low (0.14% of PCC stream) and is not expected to grow in the coming years.Increasing recycling and reuse are in essence the products of the other three interrelated goals of AB2398, namely:
1.Increasing the inherent recyclability of carpets
2.Diverting post-consumer carpet from landfills
3.Market growth of secondary products made from post-consumer carpet
With respect to market-growth of secondary products, roughly 25% (and growing) of the diverted carpet stream is PET. Due to polyester’s limitations in some of its physical and chemical properties, it does not currently have as wide a scope of market outlets as Nylon 6 or 66. However, CARE is diligently working with the recycling community and organizations on the development of new products and processes for this increasingly common fiber. Specifically, as approved by the Sustainable Fund Operating Committee (SFOC) during the June 2013 review, CARE will hire an individual to be “boots on the ground” in California and to work tackle opportunities for recycling non-nylon materials including PET. Some other plans looking forward for AB2398 include implementing a bonus incentive for Type 1 recycled output.
Check out future posts for a spotlight on organizations leading the way on PCC recycling. Until then, please refer to CARE’S hot off the press annual report to CalRecycle to get the latest information on AB2398; milestones, hurdles and more.