The California carpet recycling rate has made tremendous progress in the past few years. In 2021, the Program achieved an all-time annual high Recycling Rate of 27.9%, exceeding the 26% Plan goal for 2021 and reflecting continued annual growth despite the ongoing global pandemic. The California carpet recycling rate has soared over 320% since 2015 (including 2022 YTD.)
Calculating the Recycling Rate for Carpet
How is the recycling rate calculated? The formula is more complicated than it may seem and differs for carpet compared to some other materials. CARE calculates the recycling rate as pounds of Recycled Output (RO) divided by Total Discards. (The complex Total Discards calculation includes variables for Sales, Replacement, Demolition and Deselection, along with the average weight of carpet per square yard. See more in CARE’s 2021 Annual Report.) Total Discards in 2021 amounted to 242.8 million pounds, down 29% from 343 million pounds in 2016. The decrease in carpet sales increases the challenge of carpet collection, since the vast majority of collection is driven by the sale of new carpet.
Yield As a Measure of Recyclability
A metric called Yield is another way of looking at recycling efficiency. CARE’s yield percentage is calculated as pounds of Recycled Output divided by pounds of Gross Collection. Yield serves as the primary metric to measure changes in recyclability, which refers to how easily carpets can be separated into their component parts and ultimately recycled. As Yield increases, a higher percentage of Gross Collection is converted into Recycled Output, indicating an increase in overall recyclability of post-consumer carpet collected. The Program’s highest-ever Yield rate of 76.4% of Gross Collection, reached in 2021, supports the increased recycling rate and exceeds the Plan’s goal of 60% Yield. The yield rate has more than doubled from 2016’s 35 percent.
Comparison with the Recycling Rate for Mattresses
The stewardship organization Mattress Recycling Council uses the term “MRC Recovery Rate” to represent the percentage of material that MRC recyclers reused, recycled, or sent to biomass in a given year. In other words, it represents the amount of collected mattress material that is recycled or reused, not, as in carpet recycling rate, the amount of total carpet discarded. This MRC formula is essentially what CARE calls Yield. In 2021, the MRC Recovery Rate was 76.9%, up from 59.2% in 2017. If CARE were to use the MRC formula, our recycling rate would be about 74% today.
Despite anticipated economic and operational challenges, CARE is confident that the percentage of carpet recycled in California will continue to improve, as technological innovation is supported by CARE’s technical assistance and services and the growth of chemical recycling that will start coming online in 2023.
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