This page provides technical information on carpet recycling. Given that carpet pad is typically used with broadloom carpets, some information is also provided on carpet pad recycling. By reusing or recycling your used carpet pads and carpets you may reduce overall disposal costs, save landfill space, and help achieve the diversion goals of your city or county.
For information on AB 2398, the carpet stewardship law and the California Carpet Stewardship Plan, visit the Carpet EPR Program Overview webpage.
Synthetic fibers make up more than 99 percent of the fiber used by the United States carpet industry. Each fiber has strengths and weaknesses that must be recognized and should influence how it is to be used and constructed. The following fibers, in order of importance, are used in the production of carpets:
- Nylon: Utilized in approximately 50 percent of the carpet sold in the U.S. It is a very durable fiber with excellent performance characteristics. Its strengths include good resiliency, good yarn memory to hold twist, good stain resistance with stain treatment applied, good soil hiding ability, and good abrasion and mildew resistance. It is the strongest fiber, making it an excellent choice for the heavy traffic of an active household or commercial facility. It's also the most durable of the synthetics. However, nylon is prone to static. Most nylon is treated with an anti-static treatment to reduce static. there are two basic types of nylon (type 6 and type 6.6). The properties of nylon 6 and nylon 6.6 are not that different. Both nylon 6 and nylon 6.6 are elastic while under an extension. Both nylon 6 and 6.6 allow easy dyeing and washing and both provided a chemically stable product. However, they differ in several ways: nylon 6 can be de-polymerized into back into its monomer (capralactum) and nylon 6 has a melting point of 216 degrees Celsius, while nylon 6.6 has a melting point of 263 degrees Celsius. This makes nylon 6.6 the preferred nylon for temperature performance products. Currently, nylon fibers have the highest economic value in the recycling process and are highly desired for this reason.
- Polypropylene (olefin): Polypropylene, also called olefin, is the fastest growing fiber segment in use today. It is a relatively inexpensive fiber, which is easily extruded by most carpet manufacturers. Olefin makes up about 30 percent of the fiber used in U.S. carpet manufacturing today. Its strengths include superior stain resistance. This is one of the most color fast fibers on the market. Thus, this fiber is best suited for indoor-outdoor carpet in both loop and grass styles.
- PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): PET fiber produces some of the most beautiful colorations available. It also is extremely fade resistant and provides excellent resistance to stains. While it's not as durable or resilient as nylon, it's quite durable and resists wear. PET offers a wide selection of textures and colors. However, unlike nylon, PET is not readily commercially recyclable.
- Wool: Makes excellent Berber, plush, and frieze carpet. Wool naturally resists general soiling, crushing, and most stains. Wool is also naturally resistant to fire. Wool carpet is still mainly made with jute backing as it has a superior tuft bind. The soft look and the rich feel of wool is still unmatched by any man-made fiber. Wool carpet is indeed a long lasting luxury carpet.
- Acrylics: Look and feel a lot like wool, however, the fiber has a tendency to fuzz and pill.
- PTT (Polyethylene Trimethylene Terephthalate): This fiber is stronger than PET, and has better colorfastness and cleanability features than PET. PTT is more expensive to produce than PET. As a result, carpets made from PTT are more expensive than PET carpets made of similar and even much heavier face fiber weight.
How to Prepare Material for Collection
Contamination is the primary reason why recyclable scrap carpet does not get recycled. Some contamination comes from careless handling of carpet during its removal, when other demolition debris ends up in the load. Carpet tack strips and nails are common and serious contamination problems because a piece of metal will tear up recycling equipment. A magnet might help, but not for bits of stainless steel or aluminum.
Other contaminants that are not easily removed and can make carpet unrecyclable include paint and drywall mud. Carpet must not be contaminated with body fluids, chemical or pharmaceutical contaminants, and asbestos.
Excessive moisture also impedes carpet recycling. It makes carpet heavier and interferes with fiber-testing devices and other machinery not to mention the potential for moist carpet to contain mold or mildew. Collectors must protect old carpet and pads from rain and snow by using closed containers and overhangs.
Carpet rolled, with fiber side out, cut in 6 foot widths, is ideal for processing.
The following websites have more information on carpet collection:
- How to Prepare Carpet for Recycling: This video on YouTube explains how to prepare carpet for recycling. The video shows that carpet is rolled fiber side out, however, carpet can be rolled fiber side in or out.
- How to load a trailer of waste carpet: This video shows some of the ways old carpet is made into new products and then focuses on the proper way to stack carpet in a truck trailer.
- National Map Certified Collectors/Processors: Interactive map developed by Carpet American Recovery Effort (CARE).
- California Carpet Collection/Processors: This list of carpet collectors and processors is self-listed.
- 2011 Carpet Removal Best Practices for Carpet Recycling: This Best Practices was developed by Kings County of Washington state.
- Postconsumer Carpet Receiving Requirements: This guideline has been prepared by CARE for use by anyone planning to recycle post-consumer carpet at a collection site.
Recyclers use near-infrared spectroscopic analyzers (aka laser gun) to determine the carpet fiber type because each requires a different processing technique. These analyzers are expensive and are therefore mainly used by carpet processors. The following websites have further information on fiber analyzers:
- Identification Technology: List of identification technology manufacturers developed by CARE.
Habitat for Humanity, which accepts like-new construction materials for affordable housing, is one organization that may find use for good reusable carpet, although it may require a minimum carpet quantity of about 800 square feet. Habitat for Humanity is listed in your local phone directory.
California Materials Exchange
CalRecycle's California Materials Exchange (CalMAX) portal helps businesses find markets for materials traditionally discarded, including carpet and pad.
Carpet Reuse Initiatives
- Some companies may offer reuse programs, for example, Milliken provides “Fun with Carpet” on their website. It shows how to turn carpet samples into a kitten's new scratching post, colorful coasters, or craft projects. Additionally, customers have the option of returning used samples for reuse, as part of the global floor covering division's Renaissance Sample Return Program.
- PlanetReuse is a website that one can seek others with reused materials for sale or who are looking for materials individuals, architects, etc. have for sale or to donate. Provides listings of materials available and provides an app for those with materials to sell or donate.
Recycling Carpets and Pads
Recycling of Carpet
When it comes to recycling, not all carpets are created equal. Some are much more readily reused or recycled than others. In particular, carpets made from nylon are highly valued by recyclers. However, as nylon carpets sales decrease are supplanted with polyester or other less valuable materials, it makes the economics of carpet recycling more challenging.
- Carpet Recycling 101. An overview of carpet recycling in the United States prepared by CARE.
- Incentives. In the State of California, if you process post-consumer carpet that has been diverted from landfills, you may be eligible to apply for funds from AB 2398. Visit this webpage to identify whether you qualify and to obtain application documents.
- Postconsumer Carpet Processors. The Carpet and Carpet Pad Recycling Facilities page has a list of carpet collectors and processors which are self-listed.
- Manufacturer Take-back Programs. Tandus Flooring reclaims carpet from any manufacturer for recycling into new floor coverings in a closed loop recycling process. Since the inception of this program, Tandus Flooring has kept more than 180 million pounds of carpet from being incinerated or landfilled. Anyone recycling carpet will receive a recycling certificate to verify how many pounds were recycled. For more information call 1-800-241-4902 ext. 2691.
Carpet Pad Recycling
Carpet cushion (carpet padding) is the foundation for every residential carpet installation. The following are different types of carpet cushion:
- Bonded Urethane. This carpet cushion is also called rebond and is the most popular type of carpet padding sold today. It is made from reclaimed scrap of high-density urethane foam used in furniture and automotive manufacturing, which is bonded together to form carpet cushion. Rebond comes in various thickness and densities.
- Urethane Foam. Urethane foam is available in different densities and thicknesses. Densities of these carpet cushions can be as low as 1/2 pound per square inch (psi). Some of these densified prime urethane carpet padding can be very good performers.
- Fiber Cushion. This carpet padding is made primarily from scrap fiber.
You can send your rebond carpet pad to foam recyclers in your area. Recyclers may pay for used rebond foam pad. A number of these pad recyclers are also listed in CalRecycle's list of carpet and pad recyclers. Check your local directory for listings of other pad recyclers (check under "Recycling Centers").
- Check this list for facilities that collect carpet or carpet pad.
- CARE's Presentation on Collectors. This presentation provides information on how to become a carpet collector.
Handling and Storage
Below are requirements and best management practice guidelines to assist those handling or storing carpet:
- California Construction and Demolition and Inert Debris Transfer/Processing Regulatory Requirements. Carpeting and floor coverings are defined as construction and demolition debris in Title 14 CCR. In particular, these requirements cover material storage.
- Permit Toolbox, LEA Guidance: Carpet Recycling Activities. Provides guidelines to Local Enforcement Agencies on carpet recycling activities.
- California’s Carpet Recycling Operations Regulatory Requirements. This brochure provides information that used carpet materials are solid waste and directs companies and individuals that receive used carpet materials to contact their Local Enforcement Agency for further information.
- CARE Operational Guidelines for Handling and Processing Postconsumer Carpet
- CARE Storage Guidelines for Postconsumer Carpet
Used carpets may be recycled to make new carpet or as a component to produce other products such as auto parts, carpet pad, plastic lumber and parking stops.
More Information/Other Resources
- Carpet Materials Management: Includes an overview of the carpet stewardship program implemented in California and other information.
- Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI): Member companies manufacture most carpet sold in the United States and provide a variety of educational materials.
- CARE's Presentation to Entrepreneur : This presentation was given by CARE to entrepreneurs.
- Polymers Center of Excellence: Discussion of ASTM testing and other test methods.