KW Flooring companies divert 2 million pounds of carpet from landfills annually, while some have never heard of the Carpet America Recovery Effort
What is the flooring contractor who’s about to replace your carpet going to do with the old carpet he takes out of your home? Are you afraid to ask? Do you even care?
If you are like a growing number of consumers, you care. But you might not know that keeping your old carpet out of the landfill is easier — and cheaper — than you think. It might even be free.
“More and more, customers are expressing concerns that they don’t want their old carpeting going to the landfill,” says Don Bolton, facilities manager for KW Flooring, owner of Carpetland Carpet One Floor & Home, Buddy’s Flooring America and three other flooring companies in southwestern Ohio. “We send most of the carpet we tear out to a recycling center.”
KW Flooring’s recycling efforts are part of a national movement that diverted 338 million pounds of carpet from landfills in 2010. While this accounts for just 5.6 percent of discarded carpet nationally, it is a nine-percent increase over 2009, according to data from the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) — an industry-government effort to divert carpet from landfills that began in 2002.
The KW group, with 17 stores in and around Columbus, Dayton and Greater Cincinnati, fills two trailers a week — averaging 39,000 pounds of used carpet — which the company pays to have picked up by one of two area recycling collectors. This means that KW Flooring alone is diverting about 2 million pounds of landfill waste annually. So why isn’t everyone doing it?
“Some companies are more eager to make the effort because they want to do the right thing,” says Johnny Grubenhoff, owner of CBT Carpet Recycling in Cincinnati, which picks up some of KW’s trailers. “But the price has to be right, too. There are no cost challenges at my company. I have a price that is win-win for the carpet companies, and for us.”
Compared to sending carpet to the landfill, the costs for diverting the carpet leave the flooring company “pretty much breaking even,” Bolton says. “It does require housing trailers and extra labor to sort and stack carpet that we don’t charge for. But it’s the environmentally right thing to do.”
More consumer demand wanted
Many other flooring companies are not recycling carpet for reasons that include: Not tearing out enough carpet to justify housing trailers, and not having nearby collectors whose rates are competitive with the cost of taking carpet to the landfill, (see When the Carpet Meets the Curb).
“Consumer awareness of the importance of carpet recycling is critical to our long-term success,” says Georgina Sikorski, executive director for CARE. “If consumers demand products made with post-consumer recycled content, and if consumers demand that carpet is recycled at the end of its useful life, we can keep more carpet out of the landfill and recycle the valuable components from the carpet.”
There are now about 108 collectors in the CARE network, up from 74 this time last year.
But getting discarded carpet to a collector at an affordable price is just the beginning of the carpet-recycling process. Once there, the collector uses an infrared spectrometer to determine what type of fiber the carpet is made of. Those that can be recycled – primarily Nylon 6, Nylon 6.6 and Polypropylene – are sent to recycling facilities, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest though facilities have now opened on both coasts. These facilities recycle the materials into new carpet, carpet pad or plastic parts. There are limits, however, on the amount of material recyclers can take, and when that limit is reached, the collector cannot send any more. CBT, which uses recycling facilities in Georgia and North and South Carolina, has relationships with enough recyclers to avoid problems with limits, Grubenhoff says.
Carpet made of non-recyclable fibers received by collectors is burned to generate energy.
“We feel we have a responsibility to our customers and the planet to make sure we are using the latest innovations to do what’s right,” says Ken Weisbacher, president of KW Flooring, which also is about to complete lighting-fixture upgrades in its stores that will reduce the company’s energy usage by more than a third. “When a customer has a question or concern, we want to have the correct answer.”
So be sure to question the salespeople at Carpetland, Buddy’s Flooring America, Schumacher & Co., ProSource Wholesale Flooring and Big Bob’s about the quality “green” flooring products they have been a frontrunner in selling and installing for the past decade.
And don’t be afraid to ask them where they are taking your old carpet.©
– Nancy Kibbee is Editor at www.naturalinteriors.com