Gone are the days of disco balls and black lights. Yet, in some corners of our homes the shag carpet remains. Time to remodel? If you are replacing carpet at home or at work, there are local resources available in Kent and Tacoma for recycling your old carpet, carpet pad and installation scraps.
The secret to successful carpet recycling is keeping it dry. Wet and soiled carpet is considered garbage and cannot be recycled. It is important to note that one of the main obstacles to carpet recycling is asbestos. If your carpet was installed before 1981, there is a chance that the carpet pad or carpet glue contains asbestos. Guidelines for safe removal and disposal of materials containing asbestos are available on the Washington Department of Labor & Industries website.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carpet accounts for 1% of total US waste landfilled annually. In 2009, 5.8 billion pounds of carpet were discarded in the US. While recycling and product stewardship efforts are increasing, only 4.1% of carpet in the US is currently recycled(1).
In Washington, nearly 3% of all waste disposed is carpeting, with 50,000 tons of carpet and carpet pads dumped in landfills every year from King County alone. Statewide, only 2% of carpet gets recycled(2).
The West Coast is leading the way to improve recycling opportunities for carpeting. Following California’s lead, the 2011 Washington State Legislature considered adopting new product stewardship legislation for carpet(3). While the WA bill did not pass this year, it will be considered again in the next legislative session.
A statewide carpet product stewardship program would be very similar in nature to the E-Cycle Washington program and King County’s Take it Back Network for electronics and CFL lights.
Over 90% of carpet today is made of synthetic fiber, including nylon, polypropylene or polyester. All three are manufactured from a similar chemical processes that uses oil and natural gas(4).
By recycling carpet and purchasing items made from recycled carpet, we can help build a viable marketplace for carpet recycling programs.