Carpet skips landfills

The nation's only recycling facility capable of keeping tons of scrap carpet out of landfills is exceeding expectations after more than a year of continuous operation.

The Evergreen Nylon Recycling plant, which restarted in February 2007 after years of dormancy, has met its goal of recycling 100 million pounds of carpet in its first year.

"To come out of the gate and run at our target rate in 2007 was a very successful startup of our facility ... which is fantastic considering the plant had been down for almost six years," site manager David Harless said.

The facility, owned by Dalton, Ga.-based flooring company Shaw Industries Inc., converts used nylon carpet into caprolactam, the raw material used to make nylon carpet fibers. The caprolactam is sent to Shaw factories, where it is used to make new carpet.

Shaw acquired the facility as part of its Shaw Green Edge initiative from DSM Chemicals and Honeywell International, which developed the $100 million plant off Columbia Nitrogen Road in 1999.

The 100-employee plant is fed carpet from collection centers nationwide. Millions of pound of carpet were stockpiled at an Augusta warehouse in anticipation of the plant's restart. But most carpet still winds up in landfills.

Mr. Harless said the potential for expanding exists.

"We've identified some opportunities to grow in Augusta," he said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.

CARPET RECYCLING

- Nylon carpet is shredded.

- The carpet pieces are heated to more than 500 degrees, taking on a taffy consistency.

- Superheated steam separates out caprolactam, the raw material used to make nylon carpet.

- The caprolactam is purified into a clear liquid.

- The liquid is taken by a tanker truck to a carpet manufacturing facility to be used in new nylon yarn.

- The hard carpet backing becomes calcium carbonate and is shipped out to be used in cement.

Source: Shaw Industries

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