Carpet: Manufacturers continue to step up their green game

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November 10/17, 2014; Volume 28/Number 11

By Louis Iannaco

When it comes to recycling efforts, flooring is among the leaders for environmentally conscious industries nationwide. Several major players from the broadloom segment recently updated FCNews on their latest initiatives.

Mohawk

For the past 15 years, Mohawk has diverted an average of 3 billion PET bottles annually from local landfills and transformed those bottles into polyester carpet.

Last year, Mohawk invested $180 million to develop Continuum, a proprietary process that continues to provide a significant environmental benefit and results in a premium PET product. “Continuum is a breakthrough that enables us to create higher-quality carpeting from recycled PET bottles,” explained Rochelle Routman, director of sustainability. “The result is a polyester carpet that provides both product value and performance for consumers and allows us to continue sourcing materials from recyclable material.”

Mohawk currently has more than 40 Continuum products in the marketplace, a number that will likely increase in the years ahead. “For 2015 we project we’ll be recycling at an increased rate of 5 billion bottles per year,” Routman noted.

Shaw

To help advance its own sustainability efforts, Shaw in June announced a $17 million-plus investment in a new recycling facility. The Evergreen plant, located in Ringgold, Ga., will complement Shaw’s carpet recycling portfolio, creating high purity, post-consumer recycled material that can be used in a broad range of applications. The facility will be operational in 2015 and located in what was previously Shaw Plant 37—a rug distribution center.

“Evergreen Ringgold is an example of our ongoing efforts to keep end-of-use carpet out of landfills,” said Paul Murray, vice president of sustainability and environmental affairs. “As the latest addition to our recycling portfolio, the new facility illustrates our continued commitment to converting something that historically may have been seen as waste into a resource that has a longer life in the economy.”

Shaw has recycled more than 700 million pounds of carpet since 2006 via its take-back program and an expansive reclamation network. As an addition to Shaw’s array of recycling efforts, Evergreen Ringgold will give the company a flexible solution that is capable of recycling nylon and polyester carpet.

With the new facility now under construction, the mill continues to expand its green initiatives. “Shaw continuously evaluates opportunities to expand and advance its recycling operations to include increasingly scalable, economically sustainable recycling options,” Murray explained. “We’re currently focused on getting the Evergreen facility in Ringgold opened and then fully operational.”

Milliken

Milliken is another prominent carpet manufacturer raising the bar when it comes to sustainability. With the Milliken Carpet Landfill Diversion Program the mill is committed to finding the highest form of recovery for every carpet it diverts from entering a landfill. “As we look at the waste hierarchy, reuse is preferred to recycling,” said Philip Ivey, strategic sustainability leader of Milliken’s global floor covering division. “With that in mind, we recently partnered with PlanetReuse, a reused/reclaimed building material marketplace, to find second homes for used carpet in good condition.”

According to Ivey, reusing existing floor covering is the best option for carpet landfill diversion. “It is the highest, most environmentally friendly degree of recycling. Reuse also dramatically decreases the cost to recycle carpet, especially with freight, as it is often reused locally.” Milliken expects to recycle approximately 25,000 square yards of carpet through its partnership with PlanetReuse in just the last six months of this year. Prior to its partnership with PlanetReuse, approximately 50,000 square yards of Milliken carpet was recycled for reuse in 2012 and 2013.

Milliken is in the process of diverting approximately 20,000 square yards of modular floor covering from the Minneapolis Convention Center with the help of PlanetReuse. The carpet has served its need at the convention center for many years, Ivey said, “however, there is still good life and quality to the carpet that could be of use to someone else, and PlanetReuse is helping identify second homes for it.”

The convention center is Milliken’s largest carpet reuse project. “We know that the diverted carpet will provide a wonderful flooring solution for nonprofits, schools and others in the market for reclaimed building materials,” he added.

Moving forward, Milliken hopes to increase the number of reclamation projects. “Milliken carpet is so well constructed that, if maintained, it is reusable for many years, even more than once,” Ivey said. “With proper maintenance and cleaning, our carpet can continue to provide the same comfort, acoustic and aesthetic benefits that it does when first manufactured. We look forward to experiencing how our partnership with PlanetReuse will benefit our customers, community and the environment.”

Interface

Also in the commercial broadloom arena, Interface continues to progress along its path to Mission Zero by reducing its dependence on virgin, oil-based raw materials each year. In 2013, its global operations achieved a new high of 49% in this category. “For our entire raw material stream, 49% now comes from either recycled or bio-based raw materials,” said Eric Nelson, vice president of strategic alliances. The majority of this supply chain comes from old carpets, including both fiber and backing.

“We continue to improve both in the processing technology we deploy to harvest these post-consumer materials, as well as in building up the reverse supply chain to bring back more and more of these critical raw materials as our appetite increases,” he explained.

Over the next six to 12 months, Interface will continue to drive away from oil-based raw materials and will become more efficient in bringing back the old carpet materials it needs. “Collecting and transporting old carpet is still cumbersome and costly,” Nelson said, “and we hope to vastly improve the logistics side of that process.”

Aquafil

Jim Lindsey, director of material recovery and recycling, said the main recycling focus at Aquafil is a new carpet shearing plant he hopes will help “double production” for the company through the end of 2014 and into the first half of 2015.

Masland Contract

Masland Contract is also actively working to promote environmentally friendly practices, including reclamation. “More and more projects are requiring reclamation and/or recycling of some sort,” said Ange Baggett, marketing manager. “Our primary focus is working through our flooring contractors and the CARE [Carpet America Recovery Effort] network of collectors and processors to determine the most environmentally conscious method.”

The company’s largest reclamation project in 2014 is as a corporate end user. “We reclaimed an excess of 25,000 yards of carpet tile while our product was being installed,” Baggett said. “The tile was sent to a processor for separation into backing and face fiber. Both are being reused into recycled backing and yarn, and more work is planned for 2015.”

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