Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Problem with PET: Update

Engineer hired to develop markets for recycled polyester carpet

Mohawk Plastic BottlesIf you have recently purchased polyester (PET) carpet like 35 percent of today’s carpet consumers, there may be a way to recycle it by the time you’re ready to replace it.

Unlike nylon carpet, few uses currently exist for recycled PET, made from recycled plastic bottles. So, recycling collectors have no place to send it while 30 percent of discarded carpet heading for landfills is PET.

“The economics of PET are quite different versus nylon,” says Dr. Robert Peoples, executive director of the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE).  “The price of virgin nylon is high enough to allow for recovery and recycle of this material.  The price of virgin PET is much lower and recycled bottle chip, from water bottles, is even lower.  That leaves no room to make a profit for recyclers of PET carpet.

In addition, Peoples says, the properties of PET and nylon are quite different and the markets for recycled PET are much less robust than for nylon. There are a few products that PET can be recycled into, including fiber carpet pad and GeoHay, used in the irrigation industry.

But the consumption of these products is not large enough to handle the recycle volumes currently being collected.

As part of its focus on PET, CARE has hired an engineer to develop markets for recycled PET.

And some companies are presenting interesting innovations. EcoStrate, for example, makes traffic signs produced from 100 percent  post-consumer waste, including polyester and polypropylene. Compared to the aluminum signs you see on the roadways, these are less expensive.

The key, Peoples says, is creating demand.

“One thing architects and designers can do, when broadloom is specified over pad, is to choose a fiber pad, much of which is made from PET fiber,” he says.  “If the spec calls for 100 percent recycled PET from post-consumer carpet, this will help create demand and pull PET thru the supply chain.”©

– Nancy Kibbee is editor at


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