Report: Carpet industry must abandon toxic chemicals, embrace recycling as waste crisis looms large in New York

For Immediate Release: January 24, 2019
Contacts listed below

Report: Carpet industry must abandon toxic chemicals, embrace recycling as waste crisis looms large in New York

As communities across New York struggle to address the waste crisis caused by China’s recent refusal to accept and process American plastic waste, advocates and researchers are urging carpet manufacturers to improve the recyclability of their products and take greater responsibility for the waste that they create.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has estimated that New Yorkers generated more than 37 million tons of waste in 2014. In 2017, local governments outside of New York City spent a total of $917 million on garbage-related activities. In 2008, carpet accounted for 1.4% of ALL solid waste generation in New York. Currently, only 5% of carpet is currently recycled, with 90% going to landfill.
 
Carpet is largely made of plastic from fossil fuels and it also contains a wide range of chemicals, used as adhesives and stain protectants, that, whether by affecting indoor air quality in homes or leaching into drinking water supplies, can be toxic to human health. 
 
“We’ve known for years that carpets create major problems for families and communities while they are in homes and after they are thrown away. It’s time for policymakers to require carpet manufacturers to help solve the crisis created by their products,” said Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director of National Stewardship Action Council and a key advocate for carpet recycling through a system growing in popularity known as Product Stewardship or Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
 
“New York is facing a solid waste crisis that will only be solved by shifting our way of thinking about materials like carpet. This toolkit is an important resource for starting that conversation,” said Kate Kurera, Deputy Director of Environmental Advocates of New York.
 
EPR programs are designed to ensure that producers take responsibility for the costs created by their products after consumers have finished using them. Such programs are designed to reduce the costs of managing bulky waste for local governments that are currently paid for by consumers through taxes and garbage collection rates.
 
New research published today by Eunomia Research & Consulting outlines policy options for states to dramatically improve carpet recycling and reuse rates. The report, commissioned by the Changing Markets Foundation, calls for state governments and manufacturers alike to adopt and develop effective EPR programs. By implementing proposals outlined in the Eunomia toolkit, policymakers can curb the use of fossil fuels, help resolve the carpet waste problem, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase domestic jobs in the carpet recycling and reuse sector.
 
New York has lagged behind California in addressing the carpet issue. In 2010, California passed the world’s first carpet recycling law, which was updated in 2017 to include a mandatory ‘carpet recycling rate’ of 24% by 2020.
 
The report provides a blueprint for New York to implement producer responsibility programs for carpet. It outlines principles necessary for any carpet stewardship plan to succeed as part of the “circular economy,” where old materials are recycled into new products for consumers to buy and use instead of being discarded. These include:

  • Creating incentives for “eco-design” – thoughtfully designed products that are more easily reusable and recyclable, without toxic chemicals or components that may go into landfills or be incinerated;  
  • Increasing carpet reuse and recycling rates; and,
  • Shifting the cost burden of disposal and recycling from taxpayers and  municipalities to producers.

Mark Hilton, author of the report and Eunomia’s Head of Sustainable Business, said, “Carpet is a very traditional product that is difficult to recycle and rarely reused. Some of the most forward-thinking manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe are now tackling the design challenges and already making carpets with far fewer harmful chemicals, and using designs and business models that aid reuse and recycling. The policy makers are lagging behind, however, and this toolkit aims to provide a template that will progressively drive best practice into the mainstream at the state level.”    

Nusa Urbancic, Campaigns Director at the Changing Markets Foundation, said of the report, “The U.S. is the world’s leader in carpet production, yet is not effectively dealing with its waste. We commissioned this report because we believe the U.S. has the potential to also become the world leader in carpet recycling and reuse as part of the new circular economy.”
 
Beyond carpets, the toolkit envisions a “next generation” opportunity for producer responsibility systems with a variety of products. The overarching EPR philosophy creates incentives for manufacturers to make durable, non-toxic, easy to disassemble items that can become raw materials to make new consumer goods that enter the circular economy. 

Eunomia Research & Consulting (‘Eunomia’) was established in Bristol, England in 2001. The company is an independent consultancy dedicated to adding value to organizations through the delivery of improved outcomes. Eunomia has over 80 employees in the UK, and has offices in Bristol, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Brussels, Copenhagen, Auckland and New York. Working across the world, Eunomia’s consultants have experience and expertise in environmental, technical and commercial disciplines. Eunomia’s main service areas include:

  • Waste management;
  • Low carbon and renewable energy;
  • Resource efficiency;
  • Circular economy;
  • Environmental economics and policy;
  • Policy and program evaluation;
  • Marine planning; and
  • Natural capital and ecosystem services.

Eunomia is an appointed advisor to many types of organizations including the European Commission, central government, local and regional authorities, national utilities, waste management and technology companies and global financial institutions. Eunomia has a history of supporting local government to develop holistic approaches to improving their environmental performance including identifying inefficiencies, finding optimum solutions, gauging the appetite for new models of product/service delivery, cost-effective and future-proofed compliance, and building practical cases for change across organizations of all shapes and sizes. For more information about Eunomia, please visit www.eunomia-inc.com.

Download the report here.                         

The Changing Markets Foundation partners with NGOs on market-focused campaigns. Our mission is to expose irresponsible corporate practices and drive change towards a more sustainable economy. www.changingmarkets.org / @ChangingMarkets

Contacts:
Sarah Edwards
Director, Eunomia
646 256 6792
sarah.edwards@eunomia-inc.com
 
Nusa Urbancic
Campaigns Director, Changing Markets Foundation
+44 7479 015 909
nusa.urbancic@changingmarkets.org
 
Brian Keegan
Director of Communications and Marketing
518 462 5526 ext. 238
bkeegan@eany.org