07 Jun The Problem with Polyester
Carpet recycling industry sees dramatic rise in this non-recyclable carpet fiber
But it’s possible that we are painting a somewhat rosier picture than reality allows. Yes, post- consumer carpet recycling has grown into a successful industry over the past decade. But this national business success is focused largely around nylon, and to a lesser extent, polypropylene.
Unfortunately, 30 percent of carpet sent to recyclers this year will be made of polyester (PET). That’s up from 4 percent in 2007. PET is not recyclable because, unlike nylon, there are not products of value that PET can be turned into.
“If no solution is found, close to half of all collected post-consumer carpet will find its way back into landfills at unsustainable costs to recyclers,” reads a newsletter from the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), which has launched a project to develop market outlets for PET. “CARE is seeking an experienced and proven resource to lead the development of sustainable commercial solutions for recycling post-consumer polyester carpet.”
The five basic synthetic polymer types used to make carpet are nylon 6, nylon 6.6, polyester (PET), polypropylene (PP) and Triexta, which is made from corn-based fuel and said to be recyclable, though it is fairly new, and a program has not been developed.
Natural fibers are used in wool, sisal and other carpet types. While on their own, these are biodegradable materials, they often contain synthetic latex or polyvinylchloride (PVC) backings.
Because of the variety of uses for nylon, technology to separate it from backings and other materials have been developed and have promoted growth in nylon recycling. This nylon also is recycled into new carpet.
Economic factors are the main reason that customers choose PET carpets. Polyester is cheaper to manufacture than nylon and lacks five structural molecules that nylon has. The lacking of these structural molecules is why polyester does not wear as well, and the reason this fiber costs less to manufacture carpet from.
While price is often a determining factor, its also important to consider quality. ©
or and marketing director for the Natural Interiors Design Center