Interface (Nasdaq: IFSIA), known for its global leadership in the floor covering industry, is setting up carpet recycling hubs across North America.
"Interface’s goal is to close the loop on our raw materials supply chain, and in our case that means we’re working toward eliminating use of petroleum in our products," says John Wells, Interface Americas president. "The alternative non-virgin materials we use in place of oil must be plentiful and readily available, and so we’ve turned to recycling and processing not only our own end-of-use carpet tiles, but those of other manufacturers, along with the broadloom discards of the entire industry. The technology in place in our own ReEntry facility is able to transform this flooring trash into reusable fiber that goes back into producing our new products. It closes the loop."
One of the partners, California-based The Carpet Recyclers, has kept 150 million pounds of used carpet out of West Coast landfills, saved over 15 million gallons of oil and created more than 100 green jobs since its founding two years ago.
Interface has long promoted the use of carpet tile, which is becoming the carpet product of choice – when a tile wears out or gets stained, it’s easily replaced – instead of throwing out the entire carpet.
The company is committed to using recycled fibers in its products but there’s not enough post consumer nylon without an extensive recycling infrastructure. The answer is Interface’s ReEntry initiative, which identifies recyclers or finds startups or others in waste management who are receptive to being mentored and implementing a recycling system.
For example, Interface is guiding Toronto-based Aspera Recycling on the technology needed to process carpet tile on the scale of ReEntry. A fall start date is anticipated.
"Broadening ReEntry to encompass regional hubs across the U.S. and Canada just makes the most sense. There’s no environmental saving in having to ship weighty carpet discards cross-country for recycling. So, the reduction in shipping costs and fuel needs is another reason we’re pursuing satellite ReEntry operations," sayes Wells. "We know each relationship we develop in this quest may be different, but it’s become an imperative if we are to keep up with demand and keep the supply chain well-greased."
The Carpet Recyclers is a new subsidiary of GF Industries, a privately owned West Coast industrial waste recycler. Its first-of-its-kind processing facility separates and harvests all the components of used carpet at rates that make them one of the largest carpet recyclers in the U.S.
"We not only shear off the face of the carpet or carpet tile to recycle the yarns, but with the backing comprising 80% of a carpet, we have the technology to separate and process this, as well, extracting the fiber content, polypropylene and limestone filler and finding new uses for those materials, as well. With our strategic partnership with Interface ReEntry, they will have first rights to the nylon we are generating from this level of recycling," explains Larry Fink, president of The Carpet Recyclers.
An estimated 400 million pounds of carpet are disposed each year in California landfills alone. Last year, California passed a law to recycle 75% of waste by 2020 and as of July 1, 2011, California law (AB2398) requires a 5-cent "carpet stewardship assessment" on every square yard of carpet sold.
That’s raising awareness among consumers about the urgency for recycling carpet and keeping it from landfills, and pushing retailers and manufacturers to institute end-of-use programs and collection services.
More than a dozen states are preparing similar legislation.
For recyclers like The Carpet Recyclers, it’s an added incentive, since the state compensates them for every pound of material they recover from used carpet and sell to manufacturers for use as raw materials in their products.
The Carpet Recyclers is considering expanding its state-of-the-art facility throughout the Western U.S.
Interface is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial carpet tile. The company is setting the pace for development of modular carpet using materials and processes that take less from the environment, and is well along the path to "Mission Zero®," its promise to eliminate any negative impact it has on the environment by the year 2020.
Renowned, much loved green business champion and Interface founder Ray Anderson died last year.
"For many companies, the first and most difficult step on that climb is not on the Sustainability mountain itself, but rather admitting that the mountain exists," said Anderson. We see the mountain and we’re climbing it. We have laid out a path to sustainability on Seven Fronts, you might say the seven faces of the mountain."
Interface commissioned a survey last year that shows people want to work for environmentally and socially responsible employers.
A national organization, the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) is also working on diverting carpet from landfills through market-based solutions.
In January, Southwest Airlines announced it would upgrade airlines with green materials, including Interface carpet tiles.
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