How to Recycle Carpet

So you’ve replaced that old berber carpet with one of those new poly nylon blends. Did you every stop to think what happens to that old wall to wall carpet after the installers haul it off?

Your carpet, along with several tons of other people’s old carpet gets hauled off to the landfill. According to CARE, the Carpet America Recovery Effort, nearly 5 billion pounds of used carpet end up in landfills every year. This is a staggering amount of waste.

Why is carpet so hard to recycle?

Carpet is a combination of different elements which need to be identified and separated before the carpet can be recycled.

The basic element of carpeting is called the face fiber. This is either a man made or natural textile that can be woven, tufted, or fused into the fluffy part of the carpet we walk on. Face fiber is the most valuable component of the carpet for recycling and is usually made of either wool, nylon, polyester, or Olefin, or a blend of these components. In addition to the face fibers, carpet also has a backing which is made of yet another type of material. A latex product usually provides the backing for residential carpets, while commercial carpets are backed with easier-to-recycle polyvinylcloride (known as PVC).

With all the identification, separating, and reprocessing that has to happen, the recycling process is very expensive. Because of the low cost of raw materials to manufacture new carpet, there really are few reasons or incentives to recycle carpet in the United States.

CARE was formed in 2001 to address the issue of carpet waste. This nonprofit organization is funded by the carpet industry, and is comprised of government agencies and private industries. CARE is an advisory board; their objective is to advise, facilitate and provide resources for businesses in the carpet recovery industry. The goal of CARE is to divert 40% of all carpet waste into recycling facilities by 2012.

Where to bring your old carpet?

Carpet recycling is a difficult process at this time since the infrastructure is still not in place. A few places in the United States do collect some types of used carpet although many recyclers are charging a 5-25�¢ per pound recycling fee. Keep in mind that residential carpeting is harder to recycle than commercial, and not all carpet recyclers will accept residential carpet. For a listing of carpet reclamation facilities, visit http://www.carpetrecovery.org/waste.php. This interactive map will provide you with the name and address of carpet recyclers in your area.

Other carpet recycling options could include donating your used carpet to a local charity or used building materials recycling center.

If the carpet is in excellent, almost “like new” condition, Habitat for Humanity will accept carpet donations. They may have a size restriction; please call them for more information. In the Northwest U.S., Deseret Industries (an LDS ministry) will also take carpet in excellent condition. There may be other organizations in your community that will also accept used carpet.

What about carpet pads?

Carpet pads are much easier to recycle because they are made of a single component. Most carpet pad recyclers will pay for clean, used rebond foam carpet pads ~ these are the pads that look like a pressed composite material. In our community, rebond carpet pads are accepted by all recycling centers.

How else can I recycle my carpet?

If the carpet is in excellent condition, consider having it washed, resized and reseamed for use elsewhere in the house. When my in-laws replaced old wool carpet in their home some 15 years ago, the carpet was in such great shape that we were able to reconstruct three 9 x 12 rugs for use in our bedrooms. This process was not cheap, but certainly less expensive than brand new carpeting plus it kept good carpeting out of the landfill.

Old carpet can also be cut up into a large piece to protect the bed of your pickup truck, or can be used as mats in the trunk of your car. For those who camp, carpet can also be used to prevent dirt and other debris from entering the tent.

Used carpet can be used to line pet carriers or used to build kitty scratching posts. It can also be used as floor mats in the car or the laundry room.

Are you a gardener? Many master gardeners are now promoting carpet pieces as mulch beneath flower and vegetable beds. Old carpet absorbs water, and lets few weeds punch through. If you find the look of the carpet unattractive, simply cover with a fine layer of organic mulch. Be sure you cut out a hole for the plant, or the roots won’t be able to develop! Carpet can also be laid down in irrigation channels to retain moisture, or beneath walkways.

For more information about the Carpet and Recovery Effort and a list of carpet FAQs, visit the website of CARE at www. carpetrecovery.org.

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