Yes! Your carpet can be recycled!
The United States alone produces over five billion pounds of carpeting waste every year. That is an astronomically high amount of unnecessary landfill waste, especially when there is an alternative like recycling carpet.
This waste that goes into the garbage is also a major hazard to our environment for many reasons. First and foremost, these carpets do not decompose.
However, you must keep in mind that some carpet waste is impossible to avoid. Also, realize that most of that waste comes from commercial business. On average, a regular carpet in your home only lasts between five and ten years. After this period, the condition demands replacing it.
When carpets are used by businesses, they don’t last nearly as long. Due to a ton of foot traffic and the carpet choice, which is usually of cheaper, less sturdy quality. Consequently, with frequent replacements comes a big increase in carpet waste. Their flooring choice is dictated by ease of cleaning and price, not usually longevity.
Furthermore, owing to the various elements that compose carpet, you cannot dispose of them like other waste materials. Tossing your used rugs in the closest recycling bin is not an option for you. So, while you can’t utilize your curbside recycling program for used carpets, with a little information we will share below, you can help reduce the immense amount of household waste from entering our landfills.
We will share with you every necessary detail about carpet recycling for your home or business. What are these carpet materials? The different ways carpet recycling can be done? How can recycled carpets be of help?
The Composition Of A Carpet
To begin, we will quickly cover what makes up a carpet and the components to understand what can be recycled, but also why it cannot be recycled curbside.
Every normal carpet you see comprises two essential components.
• The outer fibers
• The backing.
To make these different parts, there must be a mixture of certain materials. Some of these materials in the composition are:
Actually, a large chunk of carpet material ends up consisting of….PLASTIC!
• The Outer Fibers
The outer fibers of any carpet are those parts of it you can see, and the part you walk on. The elements that make up this part are normally nylon, polyester, wool fibers, and polypropylene. All of these elements are synthetic fibers made from various chemical procedures using petroleum.
More so, every one of these fibers comes with a unique composition. Consequently, they also come with totally distinct recycling requirements.
• The Backing Or The Base
The next part is the backing or the base of the carpet. Most times, the backing is created using latex/plastic or PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
Most of the carpets you see in commercial environments are PVC-backed carpets. Also, they are simpler to recycle compared to those with latex backings.
Why Should Companies Avoid Carpet Waste?
Disposing of a carpet in the landfill is the same thing as disposing of plastic in a landfill. In the case of carpets, they carry several distinct kinds of plastic. However, they are all still plastic. So, they become exceedingly tough to break down and will sit and leach chemicals into the soil and air, and water. They are not biodegradable such as paper products, so this waste will be there for decades to come.
Meanwhile, recycling these plastics and using them to serve other functions is easily attainable. Reclaiming these materials helps decrease the need to create more through production with raw materials, which means reducing pollution as well. More so, it reduces fossil fuel consumption. The reduction of landfill waste and the creation of sustainable manufacturing of textile and fabric products such as carpets is ideal for all.
Lastly, with the steady rise in oil prices, the creation of new materials becomes increasingly expensive. Therefore, the importance of these types of recyclables increases as well.
In addition, it helps to draw away this recyclable waste from landfills. With that, you can also reduce carbon emissions. Therefore, when you recycle these carpets, you free up landfill space. Plus, you will promote the inflow of recycled, valuable material to assist with more production. In other words, you are creating a greener, more optimistic future for all of us.
Getting Your Carpet Recycled
For businesses that prefer to recycle their carpets rather than disposing of them in the trash, you have two options.
1. Use The Services Of Local Collection Sites
Confirm the kind of materials your local waste services accept. They may accept carpet or carpet scraps from the public. Thanks to the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), there is an interactive map of collection sites around you. You can also find available collectors that help with carpet recycling.
2. Find a Waste Hauling Company that Works with Carpet Recycling
There are several waste hauler service providers that you can work with. One of them is Rubicon. These waste hauler service providers can customize recycling plans for all of your company’s waste needs.
Such plans will cater to tough-to-process materials like carpets as well. Aside from Rubicon, other companies recycle carpets. Thanks to Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), here is an easy way to locate the nearest carpet recycler today.
3. Check with your New Carpet/Flooring Installation Company
Many carpet companies, such as Mohawk, will pick up your old carpet and transport it to a carpet recycler for a small fee. If you’re getting your flooring replaced, check with the company you have chosen to see if they have a recycling program. Some retailers may include this feature in their installation fees, and this will save you time and energy in locating a recycler on your own.
How Do You Recycle Your Old Carpet
Overall, carpet recycling centers endeavor to collect useful materials found in old carpets. From these valuable materials, they develop fresh materials for new uses.
The carpet recycling process starts with sorting and isolating specific materials. An infrared light spectrometer can be used to identify what material is making up the different carpets. Then the backing may be cut away, or the entire thing shredded and washed. This begins the process of stripping away into isolated raw materials that can be further washed and processed.
For instance, polypropylene will be melted down and reduced to small pellets and sent to other manufacturers to turn into new products. Some parts of the carpet may be rearranged and run through rollers with heat to create new carpet padding for use in commercial buildings. Auto parts, plastic lumber used for decking and fencing, and other types of padding can even be made using recycled carpet material.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do You Recycle Carpet Padding Alongside Carpets?
Carpet pads and padding is the part between the subfloor and your carpet. This is the part of your carpet that provides that additional cushion and some moisture protection. Carpet pads or cushions serve as foundations for every residential carpet installation. They come in various types including:
- Bonded Urethane
- Urethane Foam
- Fiber Cushion
Several in the carpet recycling industry also accept carpet padding. However, recycling carpet padding is done separately from carpet recycling, so it’s best not to assume a recycler will take pads as well. The old carpet padding is processed and recycled into new carpet padding or other foam materials.
Can You Take Carpets To The Dump?
This might seem like the simplest way to get rid of your old carpet. Yet, this is certainly not earth-friendly at all. These carpets come with many complex fibers, almost always containing plastics in some way. This makes it impossible to break down in dumps. A recycling facility is a better spot to dispose of your used carpets.
There are still even other options such as donation, (depending on the condition), and there are dozens of upcycled carpet scraps ideas on the internet. People use their creativity to design awesome furniture pieces, or an art project from simple carpet scraps.
What Can Recycled Carpet Be Used For?
Several products can be made from recycled carpets, as well as other textile products like yarn and fabric. Some of these products are:
- New carpet fiber
- New carpet backing
- Composite lumber or plastic lumber
- Engineered resin
- Stepping stones
- Car parts
- Roofing shingles
- Railroad ties.
For instance, engineered resins become high-strength plastic resins. These versatile resins come in handy in the production of sustainable goods. Resins are used to create tile, traffic signs, car parts, and other hardwood flooring.
What Types Of Carpets Cannot Be Recycled?
Most recycling programs reject contaminated carpets. Contaminants include mold, paint, asbestos, or drywall. Please understand this doesn’t pertain to normal stains and spots that occur in most households. Dirty or stained carpet is still very recyclable. In cases where the contaminated carpet is small, you can throw it away. But, when it is a much larger amount, you may need to transfer it to a landfill yourself or request a junk pickup service.
Carpet Recycling Stats and Facts
Some quick facts and stats about carpet recycling. The upside is that we are improving, and while these stats look dismal, we can and are getting better.
- The majority of discarded carpet (80%) is sent to landfills, while only 20% is recycled (EPA, 2020).
- Carpet recycling is estimated to save over 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually (EPA, 2020).
- The average American household discards about 22 pounds of carpet each year (EPA, 2020).
- Carpet recycling can reduce the need for virgin materials, resulting in cost savings of up to 30% (EPA, 2020).
- 89 percent of discarded carpet ends up in U.S. landfills.
- Since its inception, CARE has saved over 5.6 billion pounds of carpet from ending up in landfills across the US.
- In the United States, carpet recycling has grown by over 500% since 2005 (EPA, 2020).
Obstacles To Carpet Recycling And Possible Solutions
Clearly, there is an absence of widespread, available infrastructure to aid carpet recycling. Due to this, the rate of recycling of this useful material is lower than it should be. Actually, just a meager four percent of carpet waste gets recycled. Meanwhile, a large part of its material is very recyclable.
An organization like CARE (Carpets America Recovery Effort) hopes to change this narrative. They seek means to help businesses dispose of every piece of waste they generate effectively. This includes carpet waste. If you’re a business owner, you can do your part when it’s time to replace flooring and contact a carpet recycler to ensure anything that can be recycled escapes the landfill. You can also explore different floor options for your business that may be longer lasting, such as laminate, vinyl flooring, or wood flooring. The initial cost will be higher, but these floors last much longer and are also very recyclable.
If you’re a homeowner replacing your old carpet, you can make sure that you’re doing your part by getting your carpet to a recycler. Call your local recycling facility and check if they accept carpet. If they don’t, you can also utilize the CARE website to locate a business near you. Many homeowners have also been replacing carpet with laminate flooring or hardwood, to have longer-lasting flooring that doesn’t create as much waste in the long term.