Plastics Recycling Update

Carpet recovery developments in California

Carpets rolled for recycling.

During the second quarter of 2020, CARE held the recycling rate steady at 19.8% in California. | optimarc/Shutterstock

California’s carpet recycling program achieved a substantial increase in the recycling rate last year, but the number still fell short of a target in state law.

That’s just one of the recent announcements from the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), a national stewardship group that runs the Golden State’s mandatory collection and recycling program.

Last year, the California program recycled 42.4 million pounds of plastic from carpet. Of that, 24.5 million pounds was PET, 10.5 million pounds was nylon 6, 5.4 million pound was nylon 6,6, and 2 million pound was PP.

The following are recent announcements from the group’s California program:

Recovery rate rises higher in 2019

CARE notched a 19% recycling rate in California in 2019, up from 15% the year before, according to the California Carpet Stewardship Program 2019 Annual Report. A bill approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor in 2017 mandated a 24% recycling rate by Jan. 1, 2020. CARE’s report noted the fourth quarter 2019 rate was 22.5%, near the target.

For a number of reasons, carpet processors have been delayed in bringing new plants and capacity expansions on-line, CARE reported. For example, the power company has been delayed in providing service to Aquafil’s new nylon recovery facility near Sacramento. Had that plant come on-line at even half capacity last year, the additional 15-18 million pounds of carpet recycling capacity would have boosted the state’s carpet recycling rate over 24%, CARE wrote.

Recycling steady during pandemic

During the second quarter of 2020, CARE held the recycling rate steady at 19.8% in California, according to a blog post. That was despite the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Total recycled material produced from carpet was down during the quarter, but sales of new carpet were also down; in fact, sales of new carpet hit a historic low.

CARE approved a plan to boost its subsidies to carpet recycling companies to lend them a hand through the pandemic-related economic slowdown. About $1.6 million has been provided to 15 recycling companies handling material from California, according to CARE. But the group also ended its nationwide Voluntary Product Stewardship (VPS) program, citing market pressures. That program subsidizes carpet recycling companies that don’t participate in California’s extended producer responsibility program.

Reclaimers received grants

CARE last month announced that it awarded $1.26 million in capital improvement grants and $240,000 in testing grants to reclaimers handling California carpet.

In terms of capital grants, Aquafil Group of Phoenix received $260,000 for a densifying system for PP, Los Angeles Fiber of Vernon, Calif. received $500,000 for equipment to process commercial broadloom carpet, and Wellman Advanced Materials of Johnsonville, S.C. received $500,000 for technology to recycle nylon 6,6 from commercial carpet.

In terms of testing grants, GC Products of Lincoln, Calif. received $40,000 to test the use of polycarbonate from carpet as aggregate in architectural products, necoPlastics of Columbus, Ohio received $100,000 to test adding densified carpet material to concrete and asphalt, and ReFiber of Sacramento received $100,000 to continue testing the use of carpet materials in stormwater filtration applications.

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