CARE takes next step in PET challenge

Home Inside FCNews CARE takes next step in PET challenge

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Nadia Ramlakhan

New Orleans—More than 135 attendees came together in New Orleans for the 13th Annual Carpet America Recovery Effort CARE Conference, held May 13 and 14 here. The numbers reported at this year’s event indicated members diverted 490 million pounds of post-consumer carpet (PCC) from U.S. landfills last year. While these numbers area preliminary, Bob Peoples, executive director, said the information is more accurate as compared to last year’s because of a change in the methodology used to make calculations.

The show itself was similar to previous years in terms, except for a few changes based on attendee feedback. “We followed a very similar format,” Sheri Gorman, vice president of marketing and A&D for RD Weis Companies in New York and member of the CARE board Gorman, explained. “Having the exhibitors in the same room where the presenters are is nice because you can step back and have a conversation. The exhibitors loved that [before] so we did it again.”

Eric Nelson, vice president of strategic alliances for Interface and CARE board member, added that because the conference is a two-day event, board members aimed to maximize content and strike a balance between relevant topics. Instead of featuring breakout sessions in which attendees would have to choose from a few concurrent presentations, speakers were allotted a shorter amount of time in the main room, allowing attendees to soak in important information from each meeting.

“The CARE Board really tries to take feedback each year and turn the conference into something beneficial for everyone,” Nelson said. “Rather than having to choose from A, B or C, we’re doing three or four presentations in one session. These are topics that everyone wants to hear, so we try to be deliberate and take all that into consideration.”

Also new this year is the 2015 CARE Member Product Catalogue, showcasing the various products that contain PCC, which officially launched the first day of the conference. “The key to solving our problems is going to be the products and outlets we put in place,” Peoples said, explaining that the next step after recycling carpet is finding a home for the fibers. The catalogue is designed to make members aware of their options and is available for download in a PDF format on the CARE website, carpetrecovery.org.

CARE’s new website launched May 7 of last year at its event in Seattle, but it has been constantly undergoing changes and improvements in order to be more user-friendly.

On the marketing front, CARE recently formed a new marketing committee to help promote and raise awareness in the flooring industry. On the commercial side, mills are taking the initiative to encourage recycling within their companies, but according to Gorman there is a communication gap between them, the retailers and consumers. “There is a whole education process that needs to happen.”

Peoples added that because there hasn’t been much engagement with retailers in the past, the second half of 2015 will emphasize more dialogue and “focus on getting out materials, furthering outreach and building a direct contact database.”

PET update

In recent years the challenge involving polyester (PET) for the carpet industry has been developing a viable and profitable recycling mechanism. Now that progress has been made, the next step is finding aftermarket potential for thefiber. Confident that the answer is near after solving the nylon 6 issue (the technology to recycle nylon 6 back into nylon 6 face fiber didn’t exist when CARE first started), members are aware that risks must be taken, and there is a lot more work to be done.

“They’re still trying to find solutions,” Gorman said. “So there is still a lot of testing to figure out what can we use [PET] for, what it will work in, what it won’t work in. Compared to a year ago, we’ve found a lot of different outlets and some of them are more viable while some are still being tested.”

Since the economic downturn around 2008, the use of polyester has spiked and continues to see growth. “The industry really wanted to put products on the shelf at a different price point so that consumers might be more willing to purchase during that really tough time,” Nelson noted. “If you’re recycling old carpet and you have a choice to bring back polyester or nylon, by the time you harvest the polyester fiber and turn it into a pellet it’s going to cost you more to make it than the market is willing to pay; with nylon that’s not the case because the values are higher.”

Wyatt Rollins, director of materials recovery operations for Shaw, added, “PET is a very cheap polymer, but the cost structure to recycle it doesn’t change. So there’s no way to profitably recycle the polyester and that’s why PET is such a big issue.”

Ultimately, CARE members hope to one day be able to recycle PET back into its original carpet form. “What they’re shooting for is carpet to carpet,” said Dana Darley, national sales manager for the plastics division of Vecoplan, a company that manufactures and sells size-reducing equipment. “That’s always the goal, that’s always the highest value in recycling. Otherwise they can use it for much simpler applications like automotive, where it doesn’t need the same purity level.”

Despite the positive outlook, some members continue to face obstacles. “We’ve asked New Jersey to provide carpet to our facility in Newark for half the landfill price and they declined,” said Sean Ragiel, founder and president of CarpetCycle in Newark, N.J. “There’s not enough savings. So that’s the challenge; they want us to take it for free but as everyone in the room knows, show me where I can get free trucks, free fuel, free insurance and a free driver and I’ll take the carpet for free.”

Turning over rocks’

According to Peoples, part of CARE’s role is to “turn over rocks. We seek out possibilities, look for opportunities, look for new processes and technologies and look for new products into which we can put PCC. Then we connect them with our members.”

Presenters at the conference provided some possible solutions including experimental work that will determine PET’s compatibility with particleboard formulations, recovering and recycling carpets for automobile uses (currently being done in Hyundai and Kia vehicles), and the use of power plants to convert carbon-containing waste into gas for heating, cooling or electricity.

CARE also serves as a stewardship organization administering the California AB 2398, mandating that consumers pay a surcharge on carpet purchases that goes toward the recycling initiative. On April 1 the assessment was increased from 5 cents to 10 cents per square yard, allocating more funds for recycling, diversion and product development in California.

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