Californians began paying 5 cents per square yard to fund a carpet recycling program in 2011, courtesy of Assembly Bill 2398. The program is administered by the Carpet America Recover Effort, and overseen by CalRecycle.
It currently costs $78 per ton to dispose of old carpet in El Dorado County. Area carpet recyclers, set up with loans and other support from CARE, will take it for $7 per ton, on average, said Bob Lilly of DBD Sustainability.
In 2012 351 million pounds of carpet were diverted from landfills nationally, one-third of it in California, according to CARE’s Executive Director Robert Peoples, who boasts that 2 square yards of nylon carpet are under the hood of every new Ford F150 truck.
Good markets exist for nylon-based post-consumer carpet. Roughly 60 percent becomes truck parts, new carpet, pads and a myriad of other plastic products, said Peoples.
But large portions of post-consumer carpet have proven difficult to recycled. The 38 percent that’s either polyethylene or polypropylene-based has become a burden on the fledgling recyclers.
One California recycler reportedly has 10,000 tons of it piled up. The soiled detritus of modern human habitation so thoroughly synthetic that, until now, its best and highest use has been burning it alongside coal in cement kilns, a process that doesn’t meet California’s strict air quality standards, and has not been embraced by the cement industry elsewhere.
Lilly plans to use it as the main ingredient in an absorbent filtration product with applications in sustainable development, an idea that Peoples finds “novel and exciting,” with “great potential to keep carpet out of landfills,” he said.