Delaware, OH-based necoTech is testing the addition of densified California post-consumer carpet (PCC) material to concrete and asphalt, a potentially huge market for this recycled carpet material. The company first learned about CARE and its support for carpet recycling research at plastic industry trade shows. A CARE grant then funded testing the California-sourced PCC material as a raw component in asphalt and concrete through the National Center for Asphalt Technology. Additional testing was conducted on carpet material as a binder in glue that holds pavement together, to replace virgin plastic. CEO Steve Flaherty noted that while others were also working on viable alternatives for reuse of carpet components, the infrastructure sector has a market size in the trillions and “large problems need large end markets.” necoTech had been working with mixed plastic waste, but according to Flaherty, “Incorporating carpet into the mix allows for stabilization to the raw material supply, resulting in consistency and better overall quality control”.
Location: Delaware, OH
Grant Amount: $100,000; match $10,000
Total Cost of Project: $110,000
Project Timeline: August 31, 2020 – Sept 30, 2021
“The CARE grant gave us the kick-start to disrupt an industry; the grant was a market signal that a startup can be legitimate and have its technology validated.” Steve Flaherty, CEO, necoTech
Flaherty noted that the CARE grant “gave us the kick-start to disrupt an industry; the grant was a market signal that a startup can be legitimate and have its technology validated.” The grant paid for tests and certifications. necoTech works with the Army Corps of Engineers on two contracts with the U.S. Air Force: an AFWERX Phase I contract to explore recycled polymer modified asphalt for use on air bases around the globe and a $500,000 Phase II contract using their asphalt patching solution.
Challenges included how to make the recycled carpet material appreciated for its homogeneity and performance as an added value beyond sustainability. Flaherty notes, “Specs are written around virgin materials; having (recycled carpet material) accepted is a barrier – we’re getting there. Also important is testing with the right partners. By going to the Army Corps of Engineers, we are creating instant connections with profound engineers and voices in the community with the same interests. Still, establishing those relationships is a challenge.”
Project Benefits and Outcomes
The testing shows success in producing a polymer-modified asphalt product that performs equal to or better than conventional pavement at a cost savings. Flaherty continued, “On concrete, we found promise in applications, where [our product] performed comparable to other methods and produced a cementitious product.”
The environmental benefit of recycled carpet material is that it replaces virgin materials, including natural materials like sand, that create significant greenhouse gas emissions. As Flaherty notes, “Breaking rock into smaller pieces is neither cheap nor eco friendly.” Additionally, necoTech was able to create a recycled polymer modified binder (glue) that displaces the use of petroleum-based virgin polymers along with their environmental impact. necoTech is now testing the binder in pavement mix designs with promising results.
The positive testing results coupled with the prestige of the secured military contracts has necoTech positioned for impressive growth. necoTech has been able to leverage the momentum from the grant into a national partnership with The Pavement Group, a national asphalt contractor out of Pittsburgh, PA. Additionally, necoTech is working with the producers of Pave the Road, an award-winning documentary, to explore partnership opportunities for using plastic waste in road construction, as identified in the film.
necoTech CEO Steve Flaherty explains the sustainability aspects of the company’s products.
This is one of a series of case studies that illustrate the impact and logistics of grant funding on the carpet recycling industry in California.