Aquafil's Woodland, Calif. facility interior.

Aquafil’s Woodland, Calif. facility will be closed after a short period of operation. | Courtesy of Aquafil

Shortly after opening its Northern California carpet recycling plant, Aquafil is working to close the facility and consolidate processing equipment elsewhere.

The Italy-headquartered fiber producer recycles nylon from carpet and other sources into fiber used in apparel and other textiles. It operates a plant in Phoenix that breaks carpet apart into its different materials and recycles the nylon and PP, while also recovering calcium carbonate. The nylon 6 pellets are shipped to Aquafil’s ECONYL plant in Slovenia, where a depolymerization process is used to recycle them.

Aquafil announced in 2019 it would open a similar plant in Woodland, Calif., near Sacramento, that year. The project experienced significant delays, meaning it is being closed shortly after fully opening.

California has the country’s only mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for carpet, although New York lawmakers recently passed a carpet EPR bill. Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), the stewardship group that runs California’s program, recently booted Aquafil off the CARE board for supporting the New York bill.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed with Plastics Recycling Update that Aquafil is decommissioning the Woodland recycling facility and sending carpet scrap to Phoenix to be recycled. The Phoenix site is closer to Aquafil’s three carpet collection sites in Southern California, she said.

The spokesperson acknowledged “the decision was made due to insufficient carpet supply to feed two recycling facilities (Woodland and Phoenix) each with two lines of carpet recycling. We needed 70 million pounds of used carpet and we could not source enough.”

Additionally, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) delayed power installation at the Woodland plant for over two years, “which did not help as Aquafil was trying to start up that facility and bring it up to the same speed as Phoenix.”

According to CARE’s report for 2020, the Woodland facility wasn’t expected to be fully operational until the third quarter of 2021. CARE had provided a $500,000 capital improvement grant to help Aquafil get the $12 million facility up and running.

Aquafil expects to decommission the Woodland facility by the end of this spring, the spokesperson said. All of the equipment will be reused by Aquafil either in Phoenix or at the Slovenia plant.

The company runs a number of other collection and processing facilities around the U.S.

Updated California program goals approved

Meanwhile, as Aquafil shuts down its Woodland plant, California regulators have approved aggressive new carpet recycling goals for the state program. The California Department of Resource Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) on May 11 approved stewardship program goals for 2023 through 2027.

They include a recycling rate of 31% for 2023, 34% for 2024 and 37% for 2025. In the past, CARE has faced hefty fines from CalRecycle for failing to meet the program goals. CARE achieved a 21% recycling rate in California in 2020.

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