LAGRANGE, GA.—Building on the success of its ReEntry recycling operation—which has yielded the diversion of more than 309 million pounds of carpet from landfills over the past 20 years—Interface, a global leader in carpet tile manufacturing and a pioneer in driving the business case for sustainability, is creating a new network of regional recycling allies. First among them is Oakland, Calif.–based Rethink Green, and this initial alliance is expected to increase the amount of carpet that’s annually recycled for use by Interface by 40 to 50 percent.
In announcing the new regional strategy for ReEntry and the Rethink Green relationship, Interface President and CEO John Wells explained, “It’s been our mission since 1994 to wean Interface production off non-renewable materials so that we only use recycled or bio-based raw materials—and fully close the loop. To that end, ReEntry has been essential, enabling us to capture the nylon ‘fluff’ that results from separating backing and face fiber that is recycled back into our products. Now we are turning our attention to increase overall recycling, and to the high quality separation and harvesting of backing from carpet tile that advancements in the technology and process are yielding. Over the past decade, we’ve been keeping an eye out for potential allies who also are dialing up the reclamation specifically of carpet tile, and who are as passionate as we are about closing the loop on materials. Rethink Green aligns well with both our vision and mission.”
Since its founding in 2011 by entrepreneur Carter Hallock, Rethink Green has recycled over 10,000 tons of carpet, and it recently acquired state-of-the-art machinery for separating backing from carpet tile. Hallock projects that by the end of 2016 Rethink Green’s output will be 1,000 tons a month. The company covers a territory that encompasses not only all of California but much of western America including Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington.
Overcoming Logistical Challenges
According to Eric Nelson, V.P. Strategic Alliances for Interface Americas, one of the biggest challenges to effective recycling of carpet is logistics, and it’s what has led to this regional approach.
“Typically, general contractors on commercial projects determine the handling and removal of materials for interior demolition,” he said. “They have the power to decide whether it goes to a landfill or can be recycled. What attracted Interface to Rethink Green is its access to and relationships with these decision makers. And, what we’re looking for as we team with other recyclers regionally is that same kind of dynamic. At Interface, we’re good at giving our own customers a viable option for recycling end-of-use carpet tile, but it is harder to track and collect from the thousands of jobsites across the country without enlisting a company like Rethink Green. They will help us cast the net far wider to harvest used carpet tiles and diverting them from landfills.”
Establishing a network of regional ReEntry hubs that are the caliber of Rethink Green, where the backing can effectively be separated, has other valuable benefits.
Many Upsides to Regional Alliances
“Establishing regional alliances is the most sensible solution and one that helps build a foundation for hyper-local social change,” said Nelson. “It also allows Interface to dramatically increase the tonnage we collect and channel into our system, minimizes the cost and carbon impact of transporting the post-consumer materials to our ReEntry facility here in Georgia, and creates new ‘green’ jobs in local markets, which further incentivizes investments in new technologies and recycling. It’s an indisputable win-win every way you look at it—for us, our stakeholders, and each community where we build such an alliance.”
In teaming with Hallock, Interface has found an ardent carpet recycling disciple. The 30-year-old said, “Recycling carpet is my chosen career and I’m obsessively committed to it. Rethink Green is trying to change the environmental arbitrage created from landfilling for over 100 years, an idea that Interface founder Ray Anderson put forth over two decades ago. I feel that we are in perfect sync as peaceful warriors on the path to saving this planet.”
According to both Wells and Nelson, the search for additional allies is underway, with a goal to establish a network of carpet tile recyclers so that overall recycling increases significantly each year and, ultimately, Interface is manufacturing in North America using 100 percent recycled or bio-based inputs by 2020.
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