Among building products, carpet rules the EPR game
Interface, the largest producer of modular carpet in the world, says it has reclaimed more than 220 million pounds of carpet since 1994 through its “ReEntry” take-back program. “Carpet retains its value, so from the very beginning, throwing it into a landfill didn’t make any sense,” according to Eric Nelson, Interface’s vice president of strategic alliances. The company accepts any brand of carpet, whether the owner is buying new carpet from Interface or not. Its facility focuses on recycling backing, but it has also moved into recovering nylon fiber—sending any materials that do not work well with its remanufacturing process to other facilities it partners with.
The company benefits by being less dependent on unstable prices of the raw material used to make carpet—oil. “We know that recycling used carpet into new products brings us cost savings by distancing us from the cost-volatility of petroleum,” Nelson told EBN. “49% of our global footprint is now non-virgin petroleum-based.”
Other take-back programs, such as the one at Milliken & Company, promise that if carpet can’t be recycled, it will be donated to charity or incinerated at a waste-to-energy facility. Tandus even offers financial incentives for vinyl-backed carpet.
What about other building materials?
Gaining traction and realizing cost savings have been more difficult for other building product manufacturers. CertainTeed, for example, has take-back programs for its vinyl siding, roofing shingles, and ceiling panels, but “logistics” make the programs cost neutral for the company, marketing manager Brian Kirn told EBN. “The re-manufacturing process is a no-brainer. It’s getting enough participation that’s the challenging part.” In the case of vinyl siding, contractors have to be willing to place a dedicated dumpster on the jobsite, and although they avoid paying a fee for landfill disposal, they incur costs in transportation that have to be justified by volume.