Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Recycling Could Solve Pesky Polypropylene Carpet Problem

The U.K. recycling specialist Axion has developed a way to recover polypropylene pellets from used carpets.Yowzers – according to the U.S. EPA, about four billion, yes billion pounds of carpet go into the waste stream every year – much of it is used, some is new carpet left over from building construction.  A lot of that carpet (and carpet backing) is made of cheap, durable polypropylene fiber, which makes up about 80% of the sales for commercial carpet.

[social_buttons]

Polypropylene, aka olefin, may be familiar to recycling addicts through its #5 plastic recycling designation, a number that can spell trouble.  Until now, recyclers have been slow to adopt #5, partly due to the expense of separating it from other materials.  Used polypropylene carpets on the other hand offer good potential for cost effective processing due to their sheer bulk and availability.

Polypropylene, Carpets and More

Because of its relatively low cost and high durability, polypropylene has a few other uses aside from carpets including ropes, plastic containers (margarine, yogurt, etc.), bottle tops and “living” hinges (think Tic-Tacs), lab equipment, auto parts, piping, furniture, consumer electronics and toys (cell phones, loudspeakers and Rubik’s Cube), lampshades, kettles, surgical materials, buckets, pitchers, model aircraft (in its foam form), car batteries, jewelry, stationery folders and storage boxes, coolers, air filters, insulated cable,  diapers (disposable, natch), and activity wear (Under Armour).  There is even polypropylene currency, if you can believe it. The annual global market for polypropylene adds up to about 45 million tons – a recycling gold mine ripe for the picking.

Polypropylene Recycling and Axion Polymers

Axion Polymers is a recycling specialist in the U.K. that has just announced it is ready to do some polypropylene picking, working with Carpet Recycling UK Ltd. and the public organization Envirolink Northwest.  The company has developed a method for recovering polypropylene from used carpets and converting it into pellets.  In this form the material is not suitable for manufacturing sensitive products such as lab equipment or food containers, but it could be reformed through injection molding into things like plant pots, compost bins and buckets.  Last year Axion undertook trial runs on a small scale that showed promise, and now it’s ready to embark on larger trials to demonstrate cost-effectiveness.

The Future of Carpet and Polypropylene Recycling

Axion has found that the key to cost-effective recycling of polypropylene carpets starts at the beginning, by selectively targeting “pure” polypropylene carpets for the process.  Carpets that contain mixed fibers are not suitable for this form of recycling, but at least it’s a start toward getting more #5 plastic out of the waste stream.  In the U.S., carpet recycling is starting to take off in San Francisco among other places, and companies like Aveda, Organic Valley and Stoneyfield Farms are focusing on small #5 plastic items like bottle caps and yogurt containers.

Image: Carpets by ishane on flickr.com.

 
I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
 

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
 

Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

Comments

You May Also Like

Batteries

Lithium battery recycling is an important part of protecting the environment, as it can reduce the amount of raw materials used to create new...

Fossil Fuels

A circular economy for plastic waste must generate profits at all stages. Is it really possible?

Clean Power

The call for circular economic practices to be used in conjunction with other aspects of the renewable energy transition has been gaining more attention...

Clean Power

Steel, like concrete, is such an integral part of our world that we rarely notice it. From wherever you are reading this, I guarantee...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.

Advertisement