May 22/29, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 25
By Ken Ryan
Since its founding in 2002, members of the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) have kept over 4.6 billion pounds of waste carpet out of landfills. To this day this non-profit organization charged with advancing market-based solutions for carpet recycling and landfill diversion continues to do good work.
However, CARE’s efforts have become more difficult as the price of oil has fallen. In 2016, CARE reported that its members diverted more than 488 million pounds of carpet from U.S. landfills in 2016, down nearly 6% from 2015.
According to Bob Peoples, executive director, 2016 was a challenging year for CARE in terms of marketplace activity and demand for various fiber types. “[Research] shows the carpet recycling industry is under mounting stress,” he said. “Until oil returns to greater than $70 per barrel, we see continuing turbulent times ahead.”
As of last week, West Texas Intermediate, a benchmark for crude oil, was at around $50 a barrel, and many experts see a range of $45 to $55 continuing for the next several months. The industry would need a significant and prolonged uptick before the recyclers can profit, experts say.
CARE is now facing pressure from the California Carpet Stewardship Program (CalRecycle) and could face fines into the millions of dollars, reports show.
According to Plastics Recycling Update, CalRecycle charges that the collection and recycling plans submitted by CARE have, for years, failed to meet state standards. In March, CalRecycle fined CARE millions of dollars, alleging past plans were insufficient. CARE requested a hearing to contest the fines. Instead of going after carpet wholesalers and retailers, as state law allows, CalRecycle is proposing to focus enforcement solely on manufacturers, the report said. The department has proposed requiring each manufacturer by Aug. 15 to indicate whether they want CARE to continue acting on their behalf, whether they want to join a different stewardship group or whether they will file their own plan. It has also proposed an Oct. 19 deadline to submit new plans.
During a May 16 meeting, Peoples told the CalRecycle staff he thinks the draft enforcement plan is a balanced and fair approach to an economically and technically challenging problem. After conferring with stakeholders, CARE will submit a new plan before the deadline, he said.
California is the only state to have a product stewardship law for carpet. All of CARE’s California Carpet Stewardship Program funding is derived from the carpet assessment charged to California consumers, currently $0.25 per square yard.
During its 15th annual conference, held May 9-11 in Indianapolis, Ind., CARE announced the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) will continue to provide financial support of the Voluntary Product Stewardship (VPS) program. CARE has served as the stewardship organization for VPS, which assists sorters of post-consumer carpet diverted from the nation’s landfills. The commitment for 2017 is $4 million.
During the conference, CARE named its Person of the Year and Recycler of the Year for 2016. Dick Kruse, founder of Kruse Carpet Recycling in Indianapolis, was named CARE Person of the Year. Kruse, a board member, has been instrumental in developing CARE into the organization that it is today. “Over its 15-year life, CARE has been supported and enriched by a group of very distinguished individuals; Dick Kruse stands tall among them,” said Brendan McSheehy, board chair. “Dick has lent vision and wisdom. At the same time, he personally labored in the trenches of recycling, supporting his daughter Kasey as she grew and matured in the business. He is a shining example in a dark hour to our industry.”
Interface was honored as CARE’s 2016 Recycler of the Year. Back in 1994, Interface and company founder Ray Anderson adopted a bold vision that involved recycling and sustainability. Since then, Interface has been one of the industry leaders in recycling carpet. It became the first manufacturer to implement a process for the clean separation of carpet fiber from backing on modular carpet tiles. The program, ReEntry, began in 2007 and has processed millions of pounds of material.
“Many industries nowadays stand accused of greenwashing,” McSheehy said. “For some, the image and perception is, in fact, the reality. For others, commitment is barely skin deep. Yet, there are the few that take leadership roles in promoting recycling and disposal avoidance. Beyond this, there are even fewer that hold to that leadership through thick and thin. In the face of several years of reduced oil and virgin polymer pricing, Interface’s continued commitment has never been more challenging or more worthy of recognition as CARE Recycler of the Year.”