Just call Brick City the Carpet Capital of the northeast.
CarpetCycle, one of the nation's leading post-consumer carpet recycler, recently moved its main plant from Elizabeth to an airy facility four times the size in Newark's industrial East Ward, allowing the eco-friendly company to divert more waste from landfills.
"We've kept well over 200 million lbs. of carpet out of landfills," said Sean Ragiel, founder and president of CarpetCycle, of how much his company has saved since it opened in 1999. The company, which receives most of its carpet inventory from commercial contractors but offers rip-out and pick-up services for homeowners, also recycles ceiling tiles and drywall.
Every hour, CarpetCycle processes roughly 3,000 lbs. of used carpet into an upwards of 1,000 lbs. of valuable carpet fiber, using shearing machinery to separate the fiber from the carpet backing. Ninety-nine percent of the expensive nylon is harvested from the old carpets during the process, which is used to create things like plastic pellets for auto parts and new carpet.
With tons of used carpet as the backdrop and samples of the recycled material – yarn and plastic pellets – as table centerpieces, the company celebrated its new Herbert Street location last Thursday with a grand-opening ceremony and tour of the facility.
Explaining the step-by-step process, Ragiel said the carpet is first sorted using a handheld reader that identifies type of carpet before it is fed through a shearer that separates the fiber from the backing and removing the nylon. Carpets are largely composed of nylon, as well as polypropylene and filler, like sand or latex. The fiber is fed through a vacuum to remove dirt and filler and is then baled and sent to Georgia, the Mecca of the carpet industry, Ragiel said.
Harder to recycle material, like carpet backing, is shredded into small pieces using a state-of-the-art machine. The finely ground material can then be used to fuel cement plants because it has the same BTU (British thermal unit) as coal, Ragiel explained.
"This is a good way to displace coal and again, keep carpet of out landfills," he said.
CarpetCycle, which moved to Newark in March and recently expanded to Toronto, is part of a growing green effort nationwide to keep carpet out of mounting landfills. In 2011, the company kept 12 million lbs. of used carpet and two million lbs. of old ceiling tiles out of landfills. Ragiel also sits on the board of CARE (Carpet America Recovery Effort), a nonprofit organization that diverted 333 million lbs. of carpet from landfills and recycled 250 million lbs. last year.