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Alaska carpet goes south for recycling

Posted: Thursday, August 08, 2002

Instead of hitting the landfill, more than 12 tons of carpet from the Federal Building in Juneau is heading south to be recycled.

The effort is a cooperative project between Juneau businesses Roper and Son and Northland Services, and Georgia-based C&A Floorcoverings, which offers carpet-recycling services.

"This is the first-ever shipped-carpet recycling type of a deal in Alaska," said Mitch Roper, owner of Alaska Building Supply and the contractor Roper and Son. "It's never been done before, and it was a large project."

More than 3,000 square yards of carpet were removed from the second, fifth and eighth floors of the federal office building in downtown Juneau.

Roper and Son was contracted to remove the old carpet and install the new by C&A, Roper said. The U.S. Forest Service, whose offices are located on the floors in question, had previously arranged to purchase its carpet from the Georgia-based company.

Recycling was not requested by the Forest Service, said spokesman Ray Massey. The agency only specified that the carpet be removed, and recycling was included in the package by C&A.

Northland Services contributed storage space for the used carpet for the duration of the project and shipped it south to Washington at cost, Roper said.

The carpet left last week, said Jim Scholz, regional sales manager for Northland. Storing and shipping it wasn't a burden, he added.

"We move all kinds of recycled materials south," Scholz said. "We've done cardboard, scrap metal, even contaminated soil. ... Recycling can be a difficult thing in this town because of the location and the cost of transportation, so we pretty much offer our lowest rates for recycled material going south."

Roper said he's sold C&A carpet products through Alaska Building Supply for some time.

"I've really been pushing their product because I really believe in it," he said. "You just can't keep landfilling and burning everything up. You've gotta recycle it."

Randy Johnson and Dennis Turnbull, who manage the C&A branch in the Seattle area, said the company began experimenting with recycled carpet in the early 1990s. It became standard procedure in 1997.

Under C&A's system, used vinyl carpet is shipped to the company's recycling plant in Dalton, Ga. There, the entire rug - yarn and backing - is chopped and ground to a granular consistency.

The granular substance is stored until needed, then melted and applied as new backing for another set of rugs.

"We do a lot of repeat business," Johnson said. "When we do that, instead of taking the (old) carpet and putting it in a landfill, we pick up the tab and ship it back to our plant. Instead of mining the earth, we're mining buildings for our resources."

According to Johnson, the United States carpet industry generated 180 million pounds of carpet waste in 2001. C&A has spent about $20 million to reduce its portion of that amount, Johnson said.

"We decided, hey, this isn't a ship passing in the night," Johnson said. "This is something that was going to be important in the future.

"We made this investment a long time ago, but it's paying off," he added. "We have management that's just really committed to the environment and what our kids are going to have in the future."

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at geneviev@juneauempire.com.



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