It’s just a year ago that Interface, the global leader in design and production of modular carpet tile and a sustainability trailblazer, embarked on expansion of its recycling initiatives by forming a strategic partnership with Toronto-based Aspera Recycling Inc. Now the flooring manufacturer is finalizing a similar strategic partnership with The Carpet Recyclers, a La Mirada, CA-based business that, since its establishment two years ago, has diverted more than 150 million pounds of used carpet from West Coast landfills, saved over 15 million gallons of oil and created more than 100 green jobs. In sealing the relationship, Interface is following through on an aggressive expansion of its own carpet recycling system, ReEntry, to encompass carpet recycling specialists in regional hubs throughout North America.
“In a nutshell,” explains John Wells, Interface Americas president, “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. It also means,” he continues, “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.”
A growing appetite in North America for carpet tile, and the practical flooring solution it offers, has multiplied an exponential need for the recycled fibre that ReEntry yields. The scarcity of post consumer nylon also is limiting the company’s key yarn suppliers, and these are among the reasons Interface launched a ReEntry expansion initiative last year. This drive is to help identify existing recyclers—like Aspera, and now The Carpet Recyclers—that the manufacturer can fully partner with; or, taking a slightly different tack, find startups or others in waste management who are receptive to Interface’s experienced mentoring and the incorporation of a ReEntry-type system. According to Wells, presently Interface is guiding Aspera on what technology to procure for its operations and the processing of carpet tile on the scale of ReEntry. A fall start date for its operations is anticipated.
“Broadening ReEntry to encompass regional hubs across Canada and the US 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,” says 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.”
California, Here We Come
Likeminded vision is a key to the union of Interface and The Carpet Recyclers. Both are passionate about “recycling for our children’s future.” It’s what first moved Interface founder, the late Ray C. Anderson, to take his company down a more sustainable path, and it’s the articulated mantra of The Carpet Recyclers.
Though The Carpet Recyclers may be new to the specifics of carpet recycling, its roots are well embedded in waste management—its parent company is GF Industries, a privately owned West Coast leader in industrial waste management and reuse. Moreover, they are fast learners and already proven themselves to be innovators in the industry with the start up of their first-of-its-kind processing facility that separates and harvests all the components of used carpet at rates that make them one of the largest carpet recyclers in the U.S. The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), the national organization dedicated to landfill diversion of carpet through market-based solutions, recently named The Carpet Recyclers its “Recycler of the Year.”
“In other words,” says Larry Fink, president of The Carpet Recyclers, “we not only shear off the face of the carpet or carpet tile to recycle the yarns, but with the backing comprising 80 per cent of a carpet, we have the technology to separate and process this, as well, extracting the fibre content, polypropylene and limestone filler and finding new uses for those materials, as well. The scale of our capabilities and output are in lockstep with Interface ReEntry,” adds Fink, “and now with our strategic partnership in place, they will have first rights to the nylon we are generating from this level of recycling.”
It is estimated that over 400 million pounds of carpet are disposed annually in California landfills. As of July 1, 2011, California enacted legislation that requires a 5-cent “carpet stewardship assessment” on every square yard of carpet sold. The act, AB2398, has helped raise awareness among consumers about the urgency for recycling carpet and keeping it from landfills, pushed retailers as well as manufacturers to include end-of-use programs and collection services, and is being carefully monitored by more than a dozen other states that are preparing to add similar legislation. For the recyclers like The Carpet Recyclers, it’s been an added incentive, since the state compensates them for every pound of material they recover from the used carpet and sell to manufacturers for use as raw materials in their products.
The Carpet Recyclers, according to Fink, is eyeing a possible expansion that will duplicate its state-of-the-art facility throughout the Western U.S. Wells said Interface also is interested in broadening its reach, so the new strategic partnership may be spawning that future growth, as well. “Our plan is focused on adding more of these types of partnerships with those, like The Carpet Recyclers and Aspera, who have a shared mission and complementary strengths,” says Wells.
Interface Canada, Inc, and Interface LLC are subsidiaries of Interface, Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial carpet tile. For 39 years, the company has consistently led the industry through innovation and now leads the industry in environmental sustainability. Interface 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®,” the company’s promise to eliminate any negative impact it has on the environment by the year 2020. Interface’s worldwide carpet manufacturing facilities maintain third party registration to the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard, and the company obtained the first-ever Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for the commercial floor covering industry in North America. The company is recognized globally for its commitment to build environmental considerations into its business decisions. For additional information: www.interface.com www.interfaceblog.com