Defending coastline from oil, Florida turns to recycled carpet

HomeInside FCNewsDefending coastline from oil, Florida turns to recycled carpet

WALTON COUNTY, FLA.— The Gulf oil spill has become the biggest environmental disaster ever experienced in the U.S. In their efforts to protect the Gulf Coast from the mammoth runaway oil slick, emergency responders have turned to an array of standard defenses such as booms and industrial skimmers.

But as part of their coastal defenses, officials in Walton County, Fla., are also employing tried and true technologies in non-traditional ways. One example is the use of GeoHay, a highly absorbable recycled carpet product, as a defense for the slick threatening the Florida coastline. Designed for erosion control, GeoHay works by allowing water to flow through its structure while trapping suspended sediments such as oil.

“GeoHay is an excellent example of recycled carpet product coming into the market to fill a critical need,” said Georgina Sikorski, executive director of Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). “Even though GeoHay was designed for erosion control and not for absorbing oil, it makes perfect sense to use it that way.”

GeoHay is a substitute for staked hay bales and silt fences that are normally used to meet the permit requirement for temporary erosion control at construction sites. “Unlike hay bales, GeoHay is reusable and does not fall apart or decompose with use,” said Tim Stillwell, director of sales and marketing for Industrial Synectics, the company that produces GeoHay.

Rolls of GeoHay are part of the emergency management plan in Walton County to protect its coastal dune lakes and white sand beaches, he noted. The plan calls for lining jersey barriers with GeoHay to greatly increase the level of protection. In a statement outlining its coastal defense plan, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said, “GeoHay is made from 100% recycled synthetic fiber. This product acts as a filter and is highly absorbent as well as non-biodegradable, strong and durable.” Sikorski noted GeoHay is addressing two environmental needs: “The immediate one, which is to protect beaches and wetlands, and CARE’s long-term goal of reducing waste going to landfills.”

WONZ lends helping hand

The wool industry is also finding ways to lend a hand and help in the Gulf’s clean-up efforts. “You may have heard that many salons are donating cut hair to help fill booms,” noted Elise Demboski, executive director, North America Wools of New Zealand (WONZ). “Well, another sought-after filler for booms is wool, which has been shown to soak up to 40 times its weight in oil. Wool traps the contaminant instead of absorbing it. This means the oil can be removed from the wool and recycled, and the wool can be reused several times before its efficiency decreases.

“It’s not surprising that wool can be of benefit,” she concluded. “It is natural, biodegradable, hydrophobic, buoyant and has large retaining capacity. Wool truly is an incredible fiber. Even though it has been around for thousands of years, it continues to surprise us with its ability to make the world around us a better place.”

For more on GeoHay, call 770.719.2583. Call CARE at 706.428.2127.

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