One California entrepreneur has found a way to spin PCC into potential gold: Ron Greitzer, CEO of Los Angeles Fiber Company, has created a large plant to strip and rip and reconfigure PCC, converting old textile equipment into carpet recycling equipment.

“We had to re-engineer old equipment … because the technology doesn’t exist,” Greitzer explains on a video on CARE’s website. “We are the only ones in the world recycling post consumer carpet and making a product like this – bales of shoddy,” Greitzer says in his video.

The problem is, “most of us don’t think what happens to our old carpet… (but) we have huge carpet problem in this country,” he says. “It can’t degrade. It’s petroleum based material mixed with a calcium-carbonate latex.”

According to Greitzer, LA Fiber takes in three to four million pounds a month from around the state, then using infrared technology, it sorts the PCC according to fibers, such as Nylon 6, nylon 66, polyester, wool, etc. Next, the carpet is separated from its backing, and, using large shredding machines, it is converted into “shoddy” – which is then baled (with a former hay-baler), cleaned and reprocessed until it is ready for market.

From there, a large manufacturer might purchase it in bulk and make automotive parts, plastic chairs and the like.

Greitzer, whose LA Fiber is the largest recycler of carpet on the West Coast, and others in carpet recovery say that while the market for PCC is still evolving, there is one very simple thing that green-minded buyers can do: Before purchasing new carpet, ask to look at brands and styles that contain as much recycled carpet as possible. An example would be Mohawk’s new “SmartStrand” carpets, made with DuPont “Serona” – a polymer comprised of 37 percent renewably sourced material.

Consumers also should ask the retailer if they have a carpet recycling program, and if so, ask how it works. Find out if the dealer will comes and collect it when your carpet’s life is over and whether they will pay to retrieve it.

Carpet diverted from the landfill can find its way back into productive use because many carpet manufacturers have developed ways to recover fibers that not only reduce waste, but provide for an efficient second-generation product. For more information on carpet recycling, and to see how carpet manufacturers are using waste to generate new, sustainable flooring, see these related sites:

  • Greenworks by Mohawk Industries, a recycling program by Mohawk that claims to recover 90 percent of used carpet waste for new products, the highest percentage of reclamation in the industry. Mohawk, of Calhoun, GA, says these innovations will allow it to divert 6 billion pounds of waste from the landfill every year. The company makes carpet products not only from recycled fibers but from recycled PET plastics and even old car tires.
  • Millikin Floor Covering, sustainability information from the LaGrange, GA company has pledged to send “no waste” to the landfill from its manufacturing plants and has kept that promise since 1999. Millikin, a 14,001 certified company, also produces a 100% post consumer product called Earth Square that has won awards for innovation and environmental responsibililty.
  • Shaw Industries of Dalton, GA, also has developed a closed-loop plan for its “Nylon 6” carpet that salvages the vast majority of the fibers for construction into new carpet.

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