Carpet, floor tiles and ceiling tiles are traveling the road to recyclability.
Judged by recycling rates, building materials such as carpet, floor tiles and ceiling tiles have not yet reached the status of concrete, metal or asphalt.
However, attendees of the 2012 C&D Recycling Forum, held in Long Beach, Calif., in September, were able to hear updates on how end markets for floors and ceilings are beginning to evolve.
In nearby Los Angeles, Ronald Greitzer and L.A. Fiber Co. have emerged as one of the leading destinations on the Pacific Coast for obsolete carpet.
Greitzer noted that many U.S. textile mills have closed in the past 20 years, and L.A. Fiber does not necessarily recycle carpet back into carpet.
Instead, the company is able to make carpet padding, as well as “a precursor fiber that other processors use to make plastic pellets.” According to Greitzer, the pellets can then be used by automotive components manufacturers in ways that are proving popular in an era when the “lightweighting” of vehicles is a critical goal.
L.A. Fiber seeks clean carpet (removed before a renovation or demolition project). Greitzer noted that residential carpets have proven easier to process than commercial ones.
An extended producer responsibility law is in place for carpet in California that has caused the number of carpet recyclers in the Golden State to grow from two to 16. However, he pointed out that in Southern California, around 36 percent of carpet is now collected for recycling.
For several years Armstrong World Industries’ ceiling tile recycling program has been growing, noted Armstrong’s Andy Lake. Through the program, some 123 million pounds of ceiling tiles have been recycled, said Lake.
Armstrong, headquartered in Lancaster, Pa., has met with greater success since not insisting that recyclers palletize and shrink wrap old tiles. However, Lake added, “We cannot take [tiles] out of the commingled stream.”
Lake also told attendees that Armstrong is advancing its VCT (vinyl composition tile) flooring recycling program. He said the goal of the VCT flooring program, as with the ceiling tile program, is both to obtain raw material and to create “market differentiation” when working with contractors. “Don’t think general contractors aren’t moving the [recycling] bar—they really are,” stated Lake.
The C&D Recycling Forum was Sept. 23-25 at the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center, Long Beach, Calif.