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CARE in seventh heaven at entrepreneur meeting: Annual meeting attracts more than 40 first-time attendees

COLLEGE PARK, GA.—The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) recently hosted close to 100 representatives from more than 90 organizations with a vested interest in the carpet recycling industry at its seventh annual Entrepreneur Meeting here.

According to Georgina Sikorski, executive director, the purpose of the meeting is “to focus on the needs and issues of the entrepreneurial carpet collection and processing community in a collegial and open atmosphere while providing an informal networking forum for attendees of the meeting.”

Judging by the attendance, interest in the carpet recycling industry continues to grow, noted Jeremy Stroop, CARE’s operations manager. “More than half of this year’s attendees were attending their first CARE meeting.”

To help acquaint new attendees with the details of carpet recycling, Dee Cassell, president of The Reclamation Depot, hosted a Carpet Recycling 101 information session, where she pointed out that carpet is one of the 10 most common items in the country going to landfills. “Understanding what the collectors do, how to approach the market and the significance of pricing to the market can help an entrepreneur put a successful business plan together.”

Attendees also addressed emerging opportunities in the carpet recycling industry, California’s recently enacted AB 2398 Carpet Stewardship legislation, Carpet as An Alternative Fuel (CAAF), the emerging Canadian Carpet Reclamation Effort (CCRE), Plastic Specification Sheets and the increasing market outlets that use post-consumer carpet feedstock.

“The 2010 Entrepreneur Meeting was a tremendous success with more than 80 entrepreneurs in attendance, all looking to create green jobs,” said Sean Ragiel, president of CarpetCycle and Entrepreneur CARE board member. “Given the poor economy and uncertain political climate, the enthusiasm shown by CARE members demonstrates the ideal that American ingenuity and hard work leads to success.”

First-time attendee David Smith of Flooring Services in Livonia, Mich., noted, “We in Michigan face a major problem from very low—excessively low— dump fees. Approximately 150 trucks a day come down 200 miles from Toronto to dump their trash here. The federal government will not allow us to control, or interfere, with that free trade agreement.”

Smith went on to say that all states must have a strong economic incentive to divert “trash” into usable feedstock for reuse. “Without strong incentives, all customers will take the cheapest path. Looking responsible, singing green hymns and puffing out their LEED chests only works for them if it doesn’t take away from the bottom line.”

First-time attendee Gail Brice, vice president of The Carpet Recyclers in La Mirada, Calif., said her company just announced the opening of its first zero-waste-to-landfill carpet collection and processing facilities in California. “The CARE Entrepreneur Meeting allowed us to continue and develop new relationships with a wide range of the highest-quality companies that will be key to our success.”

She also noted that the overview of California’s AB 2398 was of great interest as her company has the capacity to collect and process 150 million pounds per year in the state. “My 30 years experience comes from the environmental industry, as does GFI Industries, the parent company of The Carpet Recyclers, which has been recycling waste into resources since 1992. We’ve never before experienced this level of commitment to product stewardship, environmental protection and recycling entrepreneurs as shown by the carpet industry and CARE as exemplified by this very valuable meeting.”

The meeting’s educational sessions covered some wide-ranging topics with discussion on California’s AB 2398 Carpet Stewardship legislation kicking off the meeting. “This bill will play an important role in the marketplace and has the attention of many governing entities as well as the entrepreneurs,” Cassell said. “All eyes have been on California for several months to see if this bill has the teeth to hold on.

“Carpet As Alternative Fuel (CAAF) was another hot topic,” she explained, “especially as it relates to the negotiations for the new CARE Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to be released in 2012. There was also a marketplace forum where each attendee was given the opportunity to introduce themselves to the group and share information about what their company was interested in learning more about. If this meeting and its attendees are any kind of indicator for the future of the carpet recycling industry, I think it shows great promise, ingenuity and passion.”

-Louis Iannaco