California eyes recycling mandate for carpet mills, bill would require compliance by 2017 to sell in state

August 16, 2010

DALTON—Since 2002, the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) has diverted more than 1 billion pounds of carpet from landfills. However, according to a recent report appearing in the Dalton Daily Citizen, those efforts aren’t enough for one state. The California Legislature is considering a bill that would make carpet manufacturers meet recycling thresholds or not be allowed to sell their products in the state.

State assembly speaker John Perez of Los Angeles introduced the bill as a way “to grow the state’s carpet recycling industry by keeping waste carpet out of landfills” since the business has already created “many green jobs. But we can create even more of these green jobs if we boost our efforts to recycle and reuse waste carpets,” he said. “As we focus on our key priorities of creating jobs, fixing the budget and reforming a broken system, being able to boost our environment at the same time is definitely a win-win.”

The bill also aims to reduce the cost of discarded carpet on local governments. State studies have found an estimated 1.3 million tons of carpet is disposed in California landfills annually, making up 3.2% of all solid waste.

“Typically, producers do not consider recycling possibilities, disposal costs and environmental impacts when designing products because public agencies and other entities, not the producers, bear those costs, which each year amount to hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to legislation.

Many of the country’s largest carpet producers are opposing the requirements, including Beaulieu of America, Mohawk Industries and Shaw Industries. The Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) is currently lobbying against the legislation.

Earlier this year, CRI president Werner Braun sent a two-page letter to Perez in which he stated more than $300 million has been spent on carpet recycling by the industry and private investors in recent years. Braun also believes the legislation would have a debilitating effect on the state’s economy.

“What we don’t need is legislation that would potentially jeopardize manufacturing jobs in your state,” Braun wrote. “The carpet industry is one of the few remaining American manufacturing industries and is part of the manufacturing base in California. This is the wrong time to place economic burdens on American manufacturers who are diligently working in a voluntary manner to solve this challenge.”

The bill requires carpet makers prepare a “carpet stewardship plan” to show how they will collect waste carpet instead of sending it to landfills. It sets targets of 25% collection of discarded carpet by Jan. 1, 2017, and 50% by Jan. 1, 2022. Manufacturers would be prohibited from selling carpet in California after 2012 unless they prepared a plan to meet the targets. Unauthorized businesses or individuals selling or attempting to sell carpet would face fines of up to $10,000.

Rick Hooper, chief counsel for Shaw, stated, the company “firmly supports the proper design and management of carpet materials to minimize waste and maximize the diversion of materials from landfills. As a member of both CRI and CARE, we have consistently advocated market-based solutions for the reclamation, processing and recycling of post-consumer carpet.

“Shaw supports CRI’s efforts to provide input on the proposed carpet stewardship bill introduced in California to modify the bill in a way where the industry could support it,” he concluded.

Bentley Prince Street, one of the few remaining California mills, did not go so far as to say it opposed the bill, but agreed there needs to be some modification. “The idea behind the law is something we support,” said Kim Matsoukas, sustainability manager. “Something needs to be done to increase the diversion from landfills. But we feel like the bill does not necessarily incentivize the right things. The major issue with getting carpet recycled is making recycling a viable business. So a bill designed to increase carpet recycling must address that underlying issue. It’s a hard business in which to be financially sustainable.”

Bentley believes any recycling bill should be national in scope. “State-by-state legislation is administratively intense for mills,” she explained. “Imagine if every state tried to pass a bill like this with each having its own requirements.”

Matsoukas added the company has discussed its concerns with its local assemblyman. “We are not opposing anything; we just have some concerns the way the law is written. If it was changed to incentivize the right things, we would be more comfortable.” At the same time, she believes the bill will be modified from its current form, if only because some ambiguity exists. “The way it is written right now you have to meet certain levels by a certain time, but if you don’t you have to show you have made a ‘good-faith effort’ in attempting to meet the goals. It’s hard to know how it would affect the industry because we don’t know how strict the state would be.” For example, if no manufacturer met these requirements, the state couldn’t stop the sale of all carpet in California.

The bill is currently in committee. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s recent hearing on the bill can be viewed at assembly.ca.gov/acs/acsframe set2text.htm (type in 2398 for the bill number).

For more information, contact CRI at 706.278.3176.

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