Starting July 1, Californians will be charged an extra nickel for every square yard of carpet they buy, as part of a new state law that aims to keep carpet out of the landfill.
Passed last September, California Assembly Bill 2398 is the first product stewardship law in the nation to specially address carpet. The concept of product stewardship is defined by a manufacturer assuming responsibility for its product’s end-of-life disposal and recycling.
California’s new legislation will do exactly that, requiring carpet manufacturers to develop a comprehensive plan to increase recycling of post-consumer carpet and submit it to California’s Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) for approval.
Manufacturers can choose to design their own recycling plan or join the nonprofit Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) that will draft a plan for its members. Founded in 2002, CARE is a national partnership between the carpet industry and government agencies to develop market-based solutions to carpet recycling. The Georgia-based organization represents over 90 percent of all U.S. carpet manufacturers, and its members have diverted more than 2 billion pounds of carpet from the landfill in the last decade.
The new carpet stewardship legislation is unlike other environmental laws in California, where the state charges a fee on products such as tires and e-waste, collects the revenue and then distributes it to companies to fund recycling.
Under AB 2398, CARE will collect revenue for its members and issue funding to carpet recyclers. Non-CARE members will include in their recycling plan their strategy to disseminate funds to recyclers. Essentially, the state won’t be the “middleman” for the funding, but will oversee and approve its collection and distribution by private companies.
Carpet recyclers are required to use proceeds from the after-tax 5-cent-per-square-yard fee to increase the recyclability of carpet, develop new products out of post-consumer carpet and find other ways to boost reuse, recycling and diversion of post-consumer carpet in California.
This new model of carpet stewardship has the backing of the carpet industry.
“When the legislation was first introduced, the industry felt there were issues that could be improved to make it more viable and successful,” said Georgina Sikorski, CARE’s executive director. “The industry worked with the lawmakers to develop a bill that was acceptable for all parties and would improve the probability of the program’s success. The ultimate legislation was supported not just by the lawmakers, but by the carpet industry, local governments and entrepreneurs. It’s a good example of a public-private collaboration.”
Carpet recyclers are also supportive of the new law, and The Carpet Recyclers, a company operating a recycling facility in La Mirada, Calif., already reports a steep increase in recycling since the passage of AB 2398 last fall.
“Carpet retailers have been calling us for months wanting to have their recycling programs in place in anticipation of their customers asking them about the [new fee] on their invoices,” said Larry Fink, president of The Carpet Recyclers. “We hope that pressure from consumers after July 1 will help convince carpet retailers who are still sending used carpet to landfill that they should be recycling.”
Consumers will also play a role in California’s carpet recycling efforts, by driving demand for recycling, Sikorski said.
“As more new carpet customers ask to have their old carpet recycled instead of being landfilled, retailers are finding ways to make that happen,” Sikorski said.
To educate the public, CARE has developed brochures and signs for carpet retailers to hand out to customers, explaining the new fee and encouraging them to find a collection center for old, unwanted carpet.
More than 400 million pounds of used carpet are discarded annually in California landfills, according to CARE. Because carpet is a petroleum-based product, this amount represents 39 million gallons of oil that could be put to other uses. Recyclers can turn carpet into new carpet fiber, building and construction materials and products for the automotive industry.