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Press of Atlantic City: Galloway Township, NJ - Carpet recycling gains traction in region

Press of Atlantic City: Galloway Township, NJ - Carpet recycling gains traction in region

Carpet recycling gains traction in region
(Published: Monday, May 05, 2008)

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP – A recycling milestone unfolded with the old green and yellow carpets from the Seaview Resort & Spa.

As part of a $1.5 million carpet and painting renovation, workers from Baumgardner Flooring, of Egg Harbor Township, spent three months removing tons of carpet and padding from the 297-room resort. But instead of hauling the loads to a landfill, where it would take years for the petroleum-based fabric to break down – if it ever does – all 14,000 square yards of flooring were trucked to CarpetCycle, a carpet and ceiling tile recycler based in Elizabeth, Union County.

Seaview General Manager Robert Schmeck said the changes are part of the Marriott resort’s environmental initiative. On a corporate level, Marriott is developing “greener” hotels by increasing recycling, using “greener” supplies and pledging to preserve 1.4 million acres of Brazilian rainforest.

On a local level, Seaview upgraded its cooling and heating systems to be more energy-efficient and installed low-flow showerheads and toilets to conserve water, said John Petrolino, the resort’s engineering director. Seaview also is working with the New Jersey Audubon Society and The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey to make its two golf courses more ecologically sound by creating bird habitats from old trees, using fewer pesticides and protecting turtles that live on the grounds.

Schmeck called the carpet recycling a no-brainer.

“This just adds to our corporate philosophy of being environmentally friendly,” he said. By recycling, Seaview conserved 6,160 gallons of oil and diverted 63,000 pounds of garbage, according to an Internet calculator supplied by the Carpet America Recovery Effort, or CARE, a nonprofit recycling organization.

Petrolino and Joe Nickels, a sales manager for Baumgardner Flooring, declined to disclose how much the carpet recycling cost but said it was about the same as sending it to a landfill. “It really wasn’t a matter of cost. My main thing is to get the carpet recycled than in a landfill,” Petrolino said.

Carpet recycling is slowly gaining traction in Atlantic County, and the Seaview project is believed to be the largest of its kind so far. In November, the Atlantic County Utilities Authority added residential carpets to its list of recyclable materials. In five months, the authority sent nearly 50 tons of carpet to CarpetCycle. Most of the material came from homes in Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. In December, Margate became one of the first municipalities in the state to adopt a law banning carpets from being thrown out with curbside trash.

Avalon Carpet Tile and Flooring has been recycling carpets with CarpetCycle throughout its southern New Jersey stores, as have residents in Burlington County and Hawthorne, Passaic County. Others joining in the carpet-recycling effort include the Atlantic City Convention Center, which recycled 5,000 square yards in 2005, and the Egg Harbor Township and Vineland municipal buildings.

The last of the Seaview carpet arrived on the CarpetCycle sorting floor Thursday and Friday, where it was tested for yarn quality. Sean Ragiel, CarpetCycle’s president, said the fiber is nylon 6, which means it will be sent to the Evergreen Nylon Recycling plant in Augusta, Ga., to be shredded and transformed into new carpeting. The padding will be taken to Chasen & Sons, a Newark company that makes mattress batting.

Recycling carpets isn’t easy. Not all communities require carpet recycling, and only two companies in New Jersey – CarpetCycle and Carpet Recovery Inc., based in Newark – are certified by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The logistics of transporting the heavy materials can be tricky; Ragiel said he is limited to collecting from a 100-mile radius and the carpets must be kept dry and separate from other garbage.

The cost of such a project varies, depending on the amount of carpet and travel distance. Ragiel said he charges $100 for residential pickup in northern New Jersey and recycles residential carpets for free if dropped off.

Ragiel said his company sorts about 400 tons of carpet per month from New Jersey and New York. Since the company’s inception in 1999, it has diverted 15,000 tons of carpet from landfills, most of which was sent to Georgia – where many carpet manufacturers are based – to be recycled into new flooring. Carpets made of nylon 66 and propylene are ground up and turned into new plastics for automobile parts, synthetic railroad ties and storm water drains. Carpets made of polyester fiber are burned to create energy.

Carpet-recycling awareness has been growing. Nationwide, about 5 billion pounds of carpet is dumped into landfills each year, according to CARE. In 2007, about 297 million pounds of carpet was recycled or turned into energy and other products, a 17 percent increase over 2006, according to CARE data. The organization hopes to divert 40 percent of all carpets from landfills by 2012. The recycling numbers could rise as landfill disposal rates continue to get more expensive, said Richard Dovey, president of the ACUA.

Nickels and Petrolino hoped other large businesses, hotels and the Atlantic City casinos could follow Seaview’s lead and start recycling old, worn-out carpets.

“It’s a coming trend with the cost of oil being the way it is. There’s got to be pretty significant thinking outside the box with carpet,” Nickels said. “Before, it was thrown in the Dumpster. You can see how much space carpet takes up. When you take something like that out of the trash system and put it into the recycle system, it’s a pretty significant drop in the amount in landfill (waste), in weight and cubic feet.

- Michelle Lee