Eastman to recycle discarded carpet into new materials

Eastman to recycle discarded carpet into new materials

November 7, 2019
Press Release: Eastman

Densified PET fiber from post-consumer carpet will ride railcars from California to Tennessee, where chemical giant Eastman will feed it into a gasification process

Eastman has reached an agreement to give new life to one of the most problematic waste materials in US landfills. Post-consumer carpet will now be recycled through Eastman’s carbon renewal technology and converted into new materials to serve new and useful purposes.

The specialist has partnered with Circular Polymers, a company that reclaims post-consumer waste products for recycling. Through this agreement, Eastman has secured a consistent source of feed-stock for carbon renewal technology, an innovative chemical recycling method that recently began commercial operation at Eastman’s primary manufacturing site in Kingsport, Tennessee.

“Our work with Circular Polymers will divert millions of pounds of carpet from landfills in the first year of our agreement,” said Mark Costa, Eastman board chair and CEO (pictured above). “Securing consistent sources of feed-stock is an important element of our circular solutions platform, as it ensures we can provide Eastman customers with materials that contain certified recycled content. This is our first announcement on sourcing feed-stocks for our chemical recycling technologies, and there will be more to come.”

Carpet pulled from houses and commercial buildings is a particularly problematic landfill item because transport is not easy – carpet is heavy and bulky – and there is a lot of it. More than 3 billion pounds of carpet were sent to US landfills in 2018, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE).

Under this agreement, Circular Polymers will collect polyester carpet from homes and businesses and recycle it at the company’s California reclamation facility, where they utilize a special processing technology that efficiently separates the PET fiber from the carpeting. Circular Polymers densifies the fiber, which enables its efficient transport by rail-car to Eastman’s Tennessee manufacturing site for chemical recycling, where it will produce new materials with certified recycled content. Those materials will be used to produce products used in Eastman markets, including textiles, cosmetics and personal care, and ophthalmics.

This announcement comes less than a year after Eastman first announced its intention to prioritize meaningful contributions to the circular economy.

“We’re a company committed to immediate, substantive action to support a circular economy,” said Steve Crawford, Eastman senior vice president, chief technology and sustainability officer. “Finding new value in old carpet is something we can all appreciate and relate to. If we just discard the carpet and landfill it, then it’s as if the valuable resources it took to make that carpet are locked up and no longer useful. Eastman is also committed to changing that story for multiple sources of mixed plastic which now are being landfilled. By collaborating with feed-stock providers like Circular Polymers and others across the value chain, we are going to work together to reclaim the value of our resources.”

Eastman expects to use up to 50 million pounds of waste plastic in carbon renewal technology operations in 2020, and projects are currently underway to significantly expand that amount.

“In addition to other feed-stock agreements like this one, we are also developing takeback programs in partnership with strategic customers to supply additional feed-stocks for our innovative recycling technologies,” Crawford added. “Our carbon renewal technology is already operating at commercial-scale capacity, so we are actively pursuing additional feed-stock opportunities to realize a material impact as quickly as possible.”

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2020 will take place at Cologne Messe, Germany, on Tuesday 16 June and Wednesday 17 June. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com

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