The Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and the King County, Wash., Solid Waste Division are developing a program that the two agencies hope will result in the recycling of 50,000 tons of used carpet per year.
To accomplish this, the King County Solid Waste Division's LinkUp program and SPU organized a Carpet Recycling Workgroup, which consisted of state and local governments and research university representatives from Washington, Oregon, California, and British Columbia.
The result of this collaboration is the Northwest Carpet Recycling Strategy, which aims to increase demand for carpet recycling and drive demand for commodities derived from and products made with recovered carpet fiber.
"There is significant potential to spur economic development by creating an industry to collect and process used carpet into usable commodities," says James Palmer, economic development manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce. "We are also collaborating with manufacturing businesses in the state to find local end markets for the materials derived from recycled carpet."
The workgroup hosted two business roundtable sessions with industry stakeholders to gain input while developing the plan. More than 100 industry representatives and workgroup members attended the sessions. Parties provided input about what they thought were the most important activities needed to get carpet recycling established in the region.
The findings from the sessions were then combined with input from the workgroup members and a list of possible strategies and tactics emerged. The workgroup then prioritized and combined tactics into the recommended actions included in the final Northwest Carpet Recycling Strategy.
"This strategy is truly a reflection of both the public and private sector perspectives," says Karl Englund, assistant research professor at Washington State University's Composite Material Engineering Center. "The workgroup realized early on the importance of having the recycling and carpet industries involved with the creation of the strategy."
The strategy also includes action items to pursue product stewardship measures such as legislation, memoranda-of-understanding, product redesign, closed-loop recycling, and take-back programs. The goal of the activities is to use solid waste and other public policies to influence costs and facilitate the flow of quality material toward recycling.
Other actions outlined in the strategy include reduction of asbestos contamination in used carpet, formation of a consortium focused on bringing a carpet processing facility to the Northwest and continued collaboration between interested parties.
A number of items in the action plan are already under way, and some co-exist with other programs in both the public and private sectors. The priority items that King County LinkUp and SPU will be working on in the near term include increasing demand for carpet recycling and driving demand for commodities derived from and products made with recovered carpet fiber. The strategy will be implemented over the next couple of years.