“We’re not comfortable with the status quo—in this case that less than 5 percent of carpet waste is recycled,” says Aquafil CEO Giulio Bonazzi. “We know [carpet] waste can be powerful with the proper technology.”

The Problem

According to California’s 2014 Waste Characterization Study, over 570,000 tons of carpet was discarded in California. It is bulky and difficult to manage, and has the fourth largest greenhouse gas footprint of any product waste in California. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, every year 4 billion pounds of carpet are discarded in the U.S. and only about 1 percent is recycled.

Carpet Stewardship – California is the First in the World

In 2010, CPSC worked with carpet manufacturers, recyclers, the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), and Assembly Speaker John Perez to pass the first product stewardship legislation to support the recycling of waste carpet, AB 2398. This legislation was not entirely successful, so warranted a new bill, AB 1158 sponsored by our national affiliate the National Stewardship Action Council (NSAC), to fix some issues. AB 1158 was signed by Governor Brown on October 14th, 2017.

California Carpet Stewardship Advisory Committee

Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE)care_logo_2c_rgb

CARE is a joint industry-government effort to increase the amount of recycling and reuse of post-consumer carpet. CARE administers the California Carpet Stewardship Program, which is charged with meeting the requirements for carpet recycling set by AB 2398 and managed by CalRecycle. CARE works to advance market-based solutions that increase landfill diversion and recycling of post-consumer carpet, encourage design for recyclability and meet meaningful goals. However, CARE’s 2017-2021 California Carpet Stewardship Program has been rejected by CalRecycle many times for not meeting statutory requirements, resulting in over $3 million in fines, which cannot be paid with consumer money, as required by AB 1158.

However, CARE has not been making significant progress to increase recycling and CalRecycle has submitted an accusation and a possible fine of over $3 million for failure to meet the legislated standard of continuous and meaningful improvement. On December 19, 2017, CalRecycle concluded that CARE’s Annual Report for 2016 failed to demonstrate compliance with the carpet law, even after the Department found CARE non-compliant in 2014, 2015, and had requested CARE to implement changes. In February, 2018, CalRecycle agreed to lower civil penalties against CARE from  $3.2 million to $1 million, but found CARE out of compliance again for the 2016 Annual Report for an additional $1.8 million in penalties. In June 2018, CalRecycle decided to delay enforcement of non-compliance for CARE until the decision is made regarding their final submission of the Carpet Stewardship Plan 2018-2022 in order to allow public consideration of the revised Plan.

Recycled Carpet Products and Market Development

There are many products on the market that use recycled carpet materials in their production. Here are some examples of companies leading the market in creating products that improve the market for carpet recycling.

Aquafil manufactures nylon from post-consumer recycled materials in their Eco-nyl product, used in many eco-fashion oriented products

DSM-Niaga creates fully recyclable carpet using their new glue technology

Interface Carpet manufacturers incorporate sustainability into their business and product design for carpet

Fiberon Composite decking uses post-consumer wood and plastic in their production process



San Francisco Carpet Procurement Standards












San Francisco Department of the Environment  adopted new sustainable carpet purchasing requirements into regulation that are among the strictest in the nation.  It limits City purchases to certain, recycled, commercial, hard-backed carpet tiles because they allow for easy replacement and minimize waste.

Highlights of the regulation include a ban on these toxic chemicals in carpet tiles and broadloom (rolled) carpet:

  • Antimicrobial chemicals because they can make bacteria resistant to antibiotics and disrupt our hormones.  It is not necessary for city department carpet to have antimicrobial chemicals.
  • Flame retardant chemicals because they do little, if anything, to slow or prevent fire. They migrate out of products and escape into our air, dust and our bodies. And they’re associated with cancerlower intelligence quotient (IQ), and reproductive harm.
  • Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) because they are associated with cancer, high cholesterol and obesity.   So San Francisco’s regulation requires carpets to have cationic nylon yarn.  It is soil stain resistant and does not require toxic fluorinated chemicals.
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) because it usually has phthalates (some of which disrupt our hormones and probably causes cancer), and sometimes it has lead (which can cause reproductive problems and nerve disorders), and when PVC is made or disposed, it releases cancer-causing dioxins.

To learn more, watch this webinar on the San Francisco carpet procurement standards:

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