GREEN Topic: Recycled Content Carpet
Technology Snapshot & Benefits:
Between four and five billion pounds of carpet are replaced every year in the United States alone, but less than 1% of this is recycled. In other words, 99% of old carpet is sent to landfills instead of being recycled and made into new carpet. About 60% of carpet manufactured in the U.S. is made of nylon which can easily be recycled back into carpet or into raw materials for car parts, etc. Plastic bottles and textiles can also be reduced to their basic material level and used to weave new carpets. Despite the variety of materials, recycled carpet is very similar in look and feel to standard carpet.
Look for the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus on carpets for maximum energy and environmental savings. The Green Label Plus certifies carpets with the lowest emissions, lowest VOCs, and highest indoor air quality standards. Every carpet is tested in a 14-day process for the presence and levels of over 25 chemicals, ensuring that it meets their high standards for homeowner and environmental health.
Estimated Cost Savings:
Recycled content carpet is comparable in price to standard carpet. While it may not make a large financial difference, buying recycled carpet is usually little to no more expensive than other options, making it a very reasonable alternative. Recycled carpet tends to be more colorfast and resilient, reducing the impact of spills and stains and helping keep the carpet in better condition, requiring fewer replacements. The largest saving associated with this type of carpet is in production and manufacturing energy in addition to the reduction of the amount of carpet in landfills.
To save money on carpeting, consider purchasing carpet tiles instead of wall-to-wall. This will reduce costs by minimizing the area that will need to be replaced should your carpet become damaged. In other words, if you spill wine, only the square or squares that are damaged need to be replaced instead of the entire carpet. This reduces your costs as well as minimizes the amount of carpet being disposed of every year.
Because carpet is fibrous, it can both help and hurt your indoor air quality depending on how well maintained it is. Carpet tends to collect dust and dirt and trap them between the woven fibers, pulling them out of the air. In order to completely clear these particles from the air, it is important to clean your carpet properly. Vacuum on a regular basis, making sure to cover all areas thoroughly. Use vacuum extensions to clean corners and hard-to-reach areas as dust tends to collect even more in these areas. Dust your home before vacuuming for a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning. Have your carpet deep-cleaned at least once every 6-12 months. Leave shoes at the door or on a mat to help prevent excess dirt and dust from being tracked into your home.
Be sure to look for eco-friendly cleaning agents when cleaning your carpet. Green Seal and the Carpet and Rug Institute both offer seals of approval on cleaning products that use the safest ingredients and have the least environmental and health impact.
For more information on carpet cleaning, visit the following links:
Installation (Getting It Done):
When purchasing new carpet, ask about recycled content. It is readily available in many stores across the country, but not all retailers carry it, so you might have to ask around. Look for carpets made with recycled materials that can be recycled again and again, minimizing the environmental impact. If possible, purchase repurposed carpet before looking at recycled as this can help avoid the minimal energy use associated with recycling. Also, ask for carpet with the least amount of off-gassing as this can contribute to poor indoor air quality. Try to purchase carpet with backing made of 100% reclaimed materials as well to further minimize environmental impact.
Try to only install carpet in rooms where needed for noise reduction or comfort. Installing alternatives like hardwood, rubber, stone, ceramic tile, or natural linoleum in areas with high traffic, frequent spills, high moisture levels, etc. (i.e. kitchen, entryway, bathrooms) can help save on the maintenance and replacement costs associated with carpet.
Recycled content carpet acts just like regular carpet, so it can be installed the same way. Check with your installation crew to ensure that they use low VOC adhesives where applicable. Consider purchasing carpet tiles instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. This makes it so that you can just replace a small section of your carpet if it gets messed up instead of having to replace the entire room, saving money and preventing the production of more carpet.
In addition to purchasing recycled carpet, it is important to take your old carpet to a recycling facility so it can be processed and reused. To find a reclamation center near you, click here.
Videos on This Topic:
Recycled Plastic Bottle Carpet (3:59) – HGTV – This informative video from HGTV explains what recycled carpet is made of, why it is beneficial to you and the environment, and shows a behind-the-scenes look at how factories recycle PET bottles into new carpet for your home.