Copyright © 2008 Rugs Direct®
There are many reasons why wood floors are preferable to wall-to-wall carpeting, and not all of them are aesthetic. Just ask Dr. Philip Landrigan, director of the Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. According to Dr. Landrigan, “Wall-to-wall carpets are a sink for dirt, dust mites, molds and pesticide residues. I much prefer smaller, washable rugs of natural fiber.” Rugs can easily be cleaned, which kills house dust mites – those nasty microscopic bugs whose droppings trigger so many asthma and allergy reactions. Plus you can regularly clean the floor underneath.
So if you’re building a new home, the choice is easy. Install wood floors throughout the house and decorate with natural-fiber rugs. A real no-brainer!
But what if your home already has wall-to-wall carpeting installed? First, check underneath. It could be hiding some beautiful, natural wood flooring. To get to it, all you need to do is remove and discard the carpeting, right? If only it was that easy!
Although not so much as in the past, some carpeting contains some rather toxic chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process. This is more prevalent in the bindings and glues than the actual fibers with which you come in contact. But the process of removing the carpet can suddenly spew toxic dust into the air, so you need to protect yourself much as if you were removing dangerous insulation. If you’re uncertain how to do this safely, seek professional help.
But the situation gets worse. What do you do with the old carpet? Unfortunately most people send it to a landfill by putting it in the trash. More than FIVE BILLION pounds of carpet ends up there each year. That’s a lot of nylon, polypropylene, polyester, polyvinyl chloride, latex and calcium carbonate that’s never going anywhere. That mountain of carpet is still going to be there thousands of years from now, unless we come up with an alternative.
Well, someone has. In fact, the industry has. It’s called CARE. – the Carpet America Recovery Effort. This non-profit organization was created in 2002 specifically to educate and encourage Americans to recycle used wall-to-wall carpeting. Since then, approximately 745 million pounds of old carpet have been recovered. The goal is to divert 40% of waste carpet by the year 2012. The prediction is that there will be about seven billion pounds of discarded carpet by then. If 40% is recycled, that’s 2.8 billion pounds that doesn’t end up in landfills.
Currently there are 56 Carpet Reclamation Centers through the United States. The organization is actively seeking to add more all the time. To find the location of the one nearest you, please click here.
One issue CARE. faces is that recycling used carpet is expensive. Most people see their old carpeting as trash and getting rid of it should be free. But the process of recycling involves not only picking up the carpeting, but identifying what kind of face fiber was used, break it down into the components used, convert these components into a form that can be used to make new products and transport that material to the manufacturing location. It generally costs between five to 25 cents per pound of old carpet to recycle it. (A square yard typically weighs four to five pounds.)
So what kinds of things can be made from old carpeting? You’d be surprised!
A great deal of construction-industry products can be manufactured from old carpets: composite lumber, both decking and sheets, tile backer board, roofing shingles, railroad ties and cushions. Quite a few automotive parts can be fashioned out of old carpeting. For information on once company that is doing a great deal to create new products from recycled carpeting, please click here.
As an added benefit, many of these products actually last longer than those they replace. This cuts down on the need for new raw materials and the energy necessary to process them. In addition, recovery of the energy content of old carpet, since it is made from crude oil as a raw material, is an important consideration related to future oil dependency. As a simple example, let's assume you have a 20' x 25' room and you recycle the old carpeting instead of discarding it. You will permit the recovery of 73 gallons of oil used to create this carpet and 1.6 million BTUs of energy. You'll also be keeping 747 pounds of non-degradable trash out of a landfill. It will probably cost you about $100 to recycle this room's old carpet, which seems an awfully small price to pay for the enormous benefit!
CARE deserves the full support of the flooring industry, construction and housing concerns, government and all environmentally concerned citizens. To learn more, please visit their website, or you may request further information by clicking here.
Following is a list of CARE’s Board of Directors
Paul Ashman - Environmental Recovery
Consolidation Services (ERCS)
Steve Bradfield - Shaw Industries Inc.
Russ DeLozier - Shaw Industries Inc.
Frank Endrenyi - Mohawk Group Inc.
Matthew Ewadinger - North Carolina Recycling
John Glenn - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Bill Gregory - Milliken & Company
Ron Greitzer - L.A. Fiber Company Inc.
Garth Hickle - Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Frank Hurd - The Carpet and Rug Institute
Stuart Jones - Interface
Brendan McSheehy, Jr. - Universal Fiber Systems LLC
Robert Peoples, Ph.D. - CARE Executive Director &The Carpet and Rug Institute
Stephen Steele - NYCORE
Fred Williamson - StarNet commercial flooring Cooperative Inc