Industry Perspectives: Ohio Landfill Report, 'What's in Our Garbage,' is Misleading; Failure to Clarify Facts Jeopardizes Carpet
What's the problem? Much of the report, if permitted to go out without important changes and clarifications, should be of concern to everyone in the industry. Ohio officials based the results on 460 truckloads of trash examined by employees during the Spring and Fall of 2003 at 14 landfills and transfer stations. The agency claims that 42 percent of all garbage ending up in landfills is by weight some form of paper. It says that paper, plastics, glass and metal can be recycled. Fair enough.
Then comes a zinger: "Also of note: three of every four truckloads contained loose wood. Carpet or carpeting materials were found in 62 percent of the loads." So a sizeable majority of the loads have carpet in them, but does the report state just how much that really came to? It does not.
Media, including some in our industry, have dutifully quoted that 62 percent stat. But they seldom put things into perspective by indicating the percentage of carpet versus the figure for all plastics, or the true percentage of carpet going into the landfills in question.
To help us sort it out we enlisted the help of Werner Braun, president, Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI), which has been the forefront of expanding the recycling of carpet. The CRI Care America program, headed by Bob Peoples, has in a short period of time accomplished a great deal when it comes to recycling carpet. We are delighted that CRI agreed to analyze this report for us.
An Analysis of Ohio's "What's in Our Garbage?" Survey by Werner Braun:
After a closer look at the "What's in our Garbage?" study and using other available data, I estimate that carpet represents less than 1 percent of all the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) stream based on an EPA MSW survey. The Ohio report said 16 percent plastic and I assume carpet was in the category as it was not mentioned separately. If carpet was 1 percent of MSW flow, statistically that would say of the plastics measured, carpet was 0.2 percent. Said another way, for every 100 pounds of solid waste, carpet would represent less than a pound.
Now, does a lot of carpet go to landfills? The answer is yes. According to our estimates, about 5 billion pounds of carpet were shipped to landfills in 2003. Carpet is derived from petroleum products and represents a valuable raw material. That's why the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) was formed - to find ways to recover the valuable raw materials and energy of carpet. Since CARE was established in 2002, approximately 175 million pounds of carpet have been recovered and the number is growing every year. (For more information see: www.carpetrecovery.org)
Opportunities exist to gain value from discarded carpet; much of it is readily recyclable. Nylon fiber, the most prominent type of carpet fiber, is a valuable polymer that can be used in many different applications.
There are a number of uses for waste carpet: direct reuse, refurbishment, recycling fiber into other plastic products, recycling carpet backing into new carpet backing, and "carpet-to-carpet recycling." And efforts are underway to increase the options for recycling waste carpet, including using components to make new products from recycled content. We are working hard to put into place this foundation in what we view as an entire new industry.