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The carpet that you’re standing on while reading this post may very well be made from recycled plastic bottles.
And we’re not talking small door mats here, but rather bonafide, thick, wall-to-wall carpeting.
How Do They Do It?
The largest producer of carpeting from recycled plastic is Mohawk Industries, based in Calhoun, Georgia. Mohawk receives 8.2 million plastic bottles every day from recycling companies all over North America. The bottles arrive flattened out, baled up and dirty.
First, the clear bottles are separated from the colored ones, so that the final carpets don’t all turn out green. Then, sharp blades slice and dice the bottles into extremely small flakes or chips. (They basically pulverize them.)
Next, as these chips are washed, the thicker bottle-cap pieces float to the top and are separated out from the rest. These thicker chips are used to form the carpet “cores,” which the carpeting will be wrapped around.
When all the finer pieces are clean and dried, the “extrusion” process begins. The flakes are heated to 500°F and melted down to a molten liquid.
This liquid is then pored into a spinneret, which can be described as a huge “showerhead with 1,200 holes.” As it passes through the holes, the plastic sections off into long, thin fibers — about the size of a human hair.
The fibers are then stretched out, cooled, and crimped into a tight weave.
All of this material is then compacted and baled up. It’s then transported to a different factory, where it’s converted into yarn.
The process for making the yarn is very similar to the way cotton is turned into string. More than 1,000 needles are used for each carpet, and each needle makes 18 stitches per second.
Of course, the carpeting is available in just about any color you would want. And while the carpet is being dyed, the water is also being continually recycled.
Voila! The final product:
How Does It Compare to Conventional Carpet?
Customers and builders alike attest that the carpeting made from recycled plastic is every bit as soft and comfortable as carpeting made from wool or another synthetic material.
Pricewise, the recycled plastic carpet costs about the same as any other synthetic carpet of the same grade.
And consumers are catching on. Every day, Mohawk Industries alone produces enough recycled carpets to extend across 2,500 football fields!
Is It Truly Green?
But is recycled carpeting the best “green” choice? According to Scientific American, it is.
In a recent article, SA stated the following with regard to carpeting made from Polyethylene Terephthalate, or PET:
“Overall, PET carpet—which is indeed made from recycled soda and water bottles… is a pretty green choice. Buildings in several national parks have used PET carpet in lobbies and other high-traffic areas with minimal need for maintenance and excellent results…PET carpet advocates report that, because plastic beverage containers are made with top-quality resins as required by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, recycled PET is superior to lower grades of virgin synthetic fibers used in making other brands of polyester carpet yarns.”
So there you have it. A quality product made by recycling more than 8 million plastic bottles a day…
It’s a win-win.