Frequently Asked Questions
CARE is the Carpet America Recovery Effort. The non-profit was created to oversee the goals and targets documented in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on January 8, 2002 by the carpet industry, a number of states, the federal EPA and a small group of non-governmental organization (NGO's). Read more about CARE on our website.
There is no simple, routine method in place today to recycle old carpet. Each case is individual since there is no infrastructure to handle old carpet at this time. CARE is working to help put that infrastructure in place. If you are a residential home owner you might ask your dealer for suggestions. If you are in the commercial sector, call your mill representative or specifier and tell them you want your old carpet recycled and they can work with you to try and make this happen. Please keep in mind, recycling costs money; it is not free. Costs vary with location and available systems. A list of CARE’s Reclamation Partners are available at the link below.
Our best advice is study the CARE web site then contact the Executive Director, Dr. Bob Peoples ( by email or phone at 706-428-2115) and he will share with you where we are and how you can get involved. Remember, there is nothing routine about carpet recycling at this time. The economics can be very challenging.
Recycling is not free. At this time it will likely cost between 5 cents to 25 cents per pound of old carpet to recycle (carpet typically weighs about 4-5 pounds per square yard). The cost will depend on the kind of carpet you have, how it was installed and your geographic location. For more information see "How can I recycle my old carpet?"
Most people see carpet as waste therefore it should be free. However, it costs money to pick it up, identify what kind of face fiber it is made of, break it down into the components that make it up, convert those components into a form that someone will buy and use to make a new product, and transport that raw material to the manufacturing location. There is capital to invest in equipment to do this, salaries of those who do the work, insurance, maintenance, energy costs, etc. That is why it is not free. Ultimately society must bear the cost of sustainability or it will not happen in a free enterprise system. Also see: "Does it cost anything to recycle old carpet?"
Old carpet is going into composite lumber (both decking and sheets), tile backer board, roofing shingles, railroad ties, automotive parts, carpet cushion, stepping stones, etc. For a detailed listing and color photos see our Market Development webpage and the CARE 2003 Annual Report. You can also download the document, "Reclamation Opportunities for Post-Consumer Waste Carpet," which lists green products made from old carpet. Many of these products last far longer than those they replace and avoid the cutting down of trees or the use of chemicals as preservatives. You can help keep carpet out of landfills by requesting these products or specifying these products in your projects. Recovery of the energy content from old carpet, since it is made from crude oil as a raw material, is also an important outlet.
We estimate 5 billion pounds of carpet was sent to the landfill in 2003.
Since CARE began in 2002, we know approximately 500 million pounds of old carpet have been recovered. That number is growing each year. For details see the CARE 2003 Annual Report.
The Memorandum of Understanding sets a target of 40% diversion from the landfill by 2012. If we look at 2012 we expect about 7 billion pounds of old carpet to be generated. A 40% target would mean we need to recycle or reuse 2.8 billion pounds.
CARE funding is based on a voluntary contribution system at this time. Companies become supporters of CARE at levels based on their industry sales. CARE Corporate Sponsors are those who contribute at the recommended level. Green Sponsors contribute 150% of the recommended level. Sustainability Leadership Sponsors contribute 200% of the recommended level. Entrepreneurs who support the CARE effort contribute in kind. See a list of our current CARE sponsors.
A carpet is really a system, which is an assembly of parts. Each part has a role to play in the manufacture and performance of the carpet. A carpet is basically two components: the face fiber and backing system. Since most carpet in the US today is a tufted style with a latex backing we will use this as our example.
Face Fibers: this is the part of the carpet you see and walk on every day. There are four common face fiber types:
The face fiber is the most valuable part of the carpet for recycling. To recycle we must be able to identify and separate based on face fiber type. Each face fiber has completely different properties, which is why they must be separated. Face fiber typically makes up approximately ½ of the weight of the carpet but this can vary with construction.
Backing Systems: There are several types of backing systems used in the US today. The two most common are latex and polyvinylchloride (PVC). PVC backed carpets are easier to recycle today but are also more expensive and are used primarily in commercial settings. Latex backed carpets are what most people see in their homes. There are also additional layers in the backing system, which are typically polypropylene. Calcium carbonate is also employed as inert filler.
So, you can see, a carpet is a complex system with many components of different chemical composition. In order to recycle carpet it may be necessary to separate these components. Each step in the identification, separation, shredding and handling sequence adds another cost in the process of recycling old carpets.