June 8/15, 2015; Volume 29/Number 5
By Nadia Ramlakhan
Cartersville, Ga.—In conjunction with the company’s 16-year anniversary, Aquafil USA celebrated the opening of its second U.S. manufacturing facility May 29 here. The inauguration comes on the heels of a recent expansion of the company’s first manufacturing facility and U.S. headquarters (both located here as well) following a 35% increase in capacity over the last year.
“We have been growing every year for 16 years,” said Franco Rossi, president. “At one point you run out of space. Our business model has always been to deliver to our customers a ready-for-tufting product and our goal is to complement what we were doing in the first facility; it’s a way to confirm our business model and our customers’ needs.”
Joint locations in Cartersville is vital to the company’s success, Rossi said. “A large majority of our customers are local in the sense that they are driving distance from where we are located. The level of customer service required is such that it would be impossible to deliver without having a local facility. It is extremely important for our success and for the satisfaction of our customers.”
The company, known best for its sustainable carpet fiber production and nylon 6 reclamation programs, invested 12 months into the opening of the new plant, during which the building was renovated inside and out to expand into a total of over 300,000 square feet. The site allows for the separation of the fiber extrusion facility from the fiber processing facility, both of which are essential to the production of Aquafil’s Econyl carpet fibers.
Econyl carpet fibers are made from regenerated nylon 6 and are manufactured using reclaimed nylon waste materials from around the world including post-industrial and post-consumer carpet as well as abandoned fishing nets, helping to divert them from landfills. Aquafil products can also be returned at the end of their life cycles to be upcycled into new high quality fibers. The Econyl Global Collection now includes 138 vibrant yarn colors, giving carpet manufacturers and end users the opportunity to design more than 10,000 possible color combinations. The operation is projected to redirect 10.5 million pounds of spent carpet from landfills in 2015 and 30 million pounds in 2016.
The carpet shearing capabilities at the plant allow the company to process more than 10 million pounds of used carpet every year. The Aquafil USA plant is expected to produce more than 50 million pounds of carpet fiber by the end of this year.
“The company has a great sustainability story,” said Bob Peoples, executive director, Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). “After 16 years, they employ hundreds of people in Georgia and produce solution-dyed nylon from recycled carpets and fishing nets. While actual recovery of the nylon 6 takes place in Europe today, plans are to put an Econyl facility in the United States in the future.”
Since its inception in 1999, Aquafil has evolved from a three-person company in a 20,000-square-foot space to a manufacturer of some of the highest quality sustainable carpet fibers, taking up nearly half a million square feet in production space, with plans to continue growing in the marketplace.
“Unfortunately, carpet is a mature product,” Rossi said. “Because there are so many alternatives to carpet today, the only way we can grow is to outpace our competitors. This means we need to invest in better services and processes to make things more customer friendly.”
One way to do this is by introducing new technology. Rossi hopes to begin producing raw materials at the plant in Cartersville through a process called “back integration. We’ll become more self sufficient and have better control of our production process.”