September 27, 2013

Werner Braun: CARE and California law AB 2398

— We all know that the state of California is often viewed as the nation’s trendsetter, a place thought of as always being a step “ahead of the game.”

That probably holds true for California law AB 2398, also referred to as California Carpet Stewardship.

This law came into effect about two-and-a-half years ago with the intent of increasing the landfill diversion and recycling of the post-consumer carpet that is generated in California.

The law was passed in 2010, and by July of the next year it was up and running, adding a stewardship assessment of $0.05 per square yard onto carpet and carpet tile sold in California.

The funds are used to make it easier to recycle carpet, create new consumer products with recycled content, and increase ways to reuse carpet.

Almost $10 million has been collected as a result of this stewardship assessment — and the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) has already deployed close to $7 million to implement AB 2398. Recently CARE has come up with some very creative and productive ways to further leverage these funds, which should result in greater utilization of recycled goods and additional financial incentives for those who work in those carpet recovery businesses.

Some financial incentives for recycling already exist. Already in place is an incentivizing program in which businesses which process recycled carpet get either $0.03 or $0.06 per pound of recovered waste, depending on the quality of the recycled goods. That incentive program will continue.

But in addition to that program, CARE’s new “growth incentive” program, aimed at increasing the amount of carpet that is recycled, pays $0.10 per pound for every pound of recycled carpet that is recycled over and above the stated goal for a given financial quarter.

For example, let’s say the goal for next quarter is to divert 8.5 million pounds of carpet from California landfills.

And let’s say that actually 9.5 million pounds get diverted. CARE will pay $0.10 per pound over the stated goal, which adds up to $100,000. And if several businesses end up contributing to that overage, they each get a “piece of the pie,” based upon the percentage of recovered goods they contribute to the cause. That keeps the process focused on growth and prevents one company from cannibalizing someone else’s supply. And that’s only fair in my book.

Another issue that CARE is undertaking by means of added financial incentives involves the recovery and recycling of carpet made from non-nylon carpet (polypropylene or polyester known as PET, or polyethylene terephthalate).

Carpets made from PET have both advantages and disadvantages. Because PET is made from recycled plastic bottles, its use in carpet materials has helped the plastic bottle industry with respect to providing a place for its waste.

But being able to recycle this type of carpet once it leaves the consumer’s home is much more difficult than recycling carpet made from other fibers. And we have not been able as of yet to find enough markets or applications for the use of recycled PET.

But there is a financial incentive for finding uses for discarded non-nylons. If, for example, a carpet recovery business purchases a high grade, or Type I product, and uses it to make some type of next stage product, such as pellets, carpet pads or other plastics, the business will be paid a $0.12 incentive for every pound of output it produces. And that will add up.

CARE is using its stewardship assessment funds in other ways as well, which should prove beneficial to the aims of California law AB 2398.

Soon, CARE will be hiring an expert in the field to work in California to facilitate the diversion and recycling of all its post-consumer carpet, including that difficult to recycle PET.

And it will be funding a research grant to a California university research institution to facilitate the growth of the PET recovery and recycling program in that state.

This is all good news for us at the Carpet and Rug Institute, for the CARE organization, and for residents of California. These funds will make it easier to recycle carpet and over time will assist in new product development. Perhaps, over time as well, other states will follow suit.

Werner Braun is president of the Dalton-based Carpet and Rug Institute.