What is the “PET Problem?”

This post is a continuation of my series from the 10th annual CARE Entrepreneur Meeting, held on October 23rd.  For much more from the meeting, visit the RecycleAmp blog.

The “PET Problem” is, in my opinion, the single largest issue facing post consumer carpet recycling in the US.  Carpet is primarily composed of three polymer types — polyester (PET), polypropylene (PP), and nylon (PA).  PP and nylon are more valuable than PET.  Prime PET is cheap enough that creating a repro PET pellet is not currently viable.  The primary use of post consumer PET is in making shoddy for nonwoven paddings, but there is not enough demand to keep up with the supply.  Therefore, much of the PET carpet that is pulled up has to be landfilled by collectors.

The problem facing post consumer recyclers is that a higher and higher percentages of pulled-up (recovered) post consumer carpet is polyester.  This is due to two factors:

1) PET carpet is cheaper to produce so more and more builders are using it, particularly in lower cost housing and apartments.

2) PET is not as durable as PP or nylon, so it needs to be pulled up (collected) more frequently.

Estimates from collectors at the CARE meeting suggested that approximately 30% of post consumer carpet pulled up is polyester, and that that number is rapidly rising.

What are possible solutions to the PET Problem?  We’ll have much more on the RecycleAmp blog soon.

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