The Portland Airport is the home to a very unusual local celebrity – 14 acres of green carpet with a colorful and distinctive geometric pattern. This recognizable carpet has in recent years become part of Portlanders’ homecoming rituals, with many folks taking pictures of their feet on the carpet when they first arrive at the airport. There are even t-shirts and socks for sale that feature the design. However, like all things, carpet doesn’t last forever, and this year the Port of Portland began the process of finding a recycler for their carpet (they plan to recycle 13 acres of it, and give out the last acre in small pieces as souvenirs to locals). As one of their steps to success, they reached out to Global Green USA to ask us for help finding local recyclers to accept their carpet. We connected them to a few nearby companies who can turn the carpet into new products, and as of now they are choosing a recycler through an RFP process. Given how beloved the carpet is to the citizens of Portland, they have confidence that they will make every effort to ensure that it is recovered into new, valuable products.
But this problem is much bigger than one airport. According to the USEPA, over 3.5 million tons of carpet are manufactured in the US each year, but only 7.5% of this amount is recovered. When these millions of tons of carpet are discarded, it results in the emission of 8.5 million tons of greenhouse gasses, or equivalent to emissions from two coal-fired power plants. This also means that, for every ton of carpet that is recycled, you save 2.4 tons of CO2 equivalent. That’s a pretty good deal! However, carpet recycling is no easy task. For starters, there are multiple types of carpet available, some of which are more easily recycled than others. Additionally, carpet is often discarded as part of a larger demolition or renovation project, which means that contamination of the carpet by construction debris is common, and can hinder recycling.
So what can you do? Well, if you are planning to renovate your house, office, or other property, take a look at these resources provided by CalRecycle – they can give you the full picture of where to get your current carpet recycled, and how to choose a new carpet that can be easily recycled once it has reached the end of its useful life.
And as for Portland, their carpet is fortunately nylon 6.6, so they have high hopes that it will be recoverable into a variety of possible end-products, from padding for a new carpet installation to lumber for decking or railroads. The Port of Portland will be keeping Global Green in the loop as they choose a recycler for their airport’s beloved carpet, and we look forward to documenting its recycling and re-emergence of this legendary floor covering in the coming months. Stay tuned!