December 24/31, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 15
By Ken Ryan
Phoenix—Aquafil USA welcomed nearly 150 guests to its new carpet recycling facility here earlier this month. The plant, known as Aquafil Carpet Recycling (ACR) No. 1, will have the capacity to recycle 16,000 tons of used carpets a year that would otherwise end up in landfills.
ACR No. 1 is the first of several planned carpet recycling plants on the Aquafil Group’s agenda for the U.S.
The $12 million Phoenix facility operates 24/5 and has 55 workers. For Giulio Bonazzi, chairman and CEO of Aquafil, the Phoenix opening represented a milestone achievement. “Today is a great day for us,” he told FCNews. “My people made it possible. Without my team this would not have been possible.”
Bonazzi, who once said, “When I see a landfill I see a gold mine,” plans to open several similar recycling facilities in the U.S. A second one in Woodland, Calif., near Sacramento, is slated for the spring of 2019. Each of the facilities will be cookie-cutter in nature, employing the same number of employees and running the same number of hours.
Aquafil recycles nylon 6 carpet, which is brought to the Phoenix facility where it is deconstructed and turned back into raw material. The raw material is shipped back to Slovenia to the company’s regeneration system, also known as Econyl.
Aquafil said its Econyl regeneration system is the only one capable of regenerating nylon 6 from waste. It turns the waste—such as carpet and fishing nets—into fashion products including apparel, swimwear, sunglasses and virgin quality nylon yarn.
Econyl yarn is in demand with carpet and textile manufacturers, as well as apparel brands. It works with some 450 fashion brands such as Gucci and Adidas. Aquafil also supplies several flooring companies, including Interface, Mannington and Milliken.
While understandably proud that Aquafil is doing its part to close the loop on carpet manufacturing, Bonazzi acknowledged that this must be a collaborative effort. “We should work together to make the industry better in the future. I realized many years ago if we don’t change this industry, it will disappear—not just carpet but textile and plastics—if we don’t change the way we make products and processes.”
The Aquafil CEO said he drew inspiration from Ray Anderson, the late founder of Interface, who was heralded as a corporate environmental evangelist and the father of sustainability. Bonazzi recalled how Anderson had a realization that business needed to change from “take-make-waste” to a circular model. “I think Ray would be proud of what we have accomplished. When he talked about his mission zero [the goal to eliminate any negative impact Interface might have on the environment by 2020] 20 years ago I thought to myself ‘this guy was crazy.’ But it is a very simple concept to make things that are not polluting.”
Bonazzi noted the textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, perhaps only behind automotive. “More than 100 million tons of fiber are produced each year between synthetic and natural and most become land fillers,” he said. “In addition, 20% of apparel that is purchased is never used, which is crazy. If you, as a business, don’t move forward and change your ways, you will be kicked out of business sooner rather than later. In terms of being environmentally responsible and understanding the material—and making healthy products with people in mind—we, as an industry, have to be more responsible.”