The Problem

Americans discard about 3.9 million tons of carpet and rugs each year. Recycling carpet can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use; yet, despite voluntary industry recycling programs, only about 7.5 percent of carpet is recycled. Carpet recycling can recover valuable materials to make decking, construction material, automotive and furniture parts, and carpet pad. Instead, the majority of this bulky waste ends up in landfills and imposes significant costs on local government.


A Solution

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws create an economically and environmentally sustainable infrastructure for managing scrap carpet. In 2010, California passed the nation’s first carpet EPR law, which put in place a manufacturer-designed and run incentive program operated by Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). Under this law, CARE pays carpet recycling processors a subsidy for material they sell to be used in new products. The program is designed to make recycling economically viable, but does not directly pay for collection, transportation, and other recycling costs.

CARE’s program initially increased the recycling rate to 14 percent – double the rate of voluntary programs. However, this law is missing many elements of a model EPR program advocated by government agencies around the country. In addition, CARE has not continuously and meaningfully improved the recycling rate as required by the law. A 2017 amendment seeks to strengthen the program by:

1)   setting a goal of 24 percent recycling by 2020;

2)   requiring an increase in collection convenience; and

3)   expanding markets for products made from post-consumer carpet.

While California is the only jurisdiction in the U.S. with a carpet EPR law, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, and New York introduced such legislation in recent years.


Voluntary industry initiatives have had limited success in driving carpet recycling. In 2002, a consortium of manufacturers, recyclers, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreeing to achieve a 40 percent landfill diversion rate by 2012 and a 20 to 25-percent recycling rate, with the carpet industry providing the necessary funding to meet these goals. Unfortunately, in 2010, CARE reported a national recycling rate of only 4.5 percent. The second round of MOU negotiations ended in 2011 with no agreement on future goals or a sustainable funding mechanism. Subsequently, in 2015 and 2016, CARE’s nationwide temporary Voluntary Product Stewardship Program provided funds to sorters to divert more carpet from disposal.


PSI’s Role in Delivering Solutions

Provides Technical Assistance

PSI helps stakeholders launch new carpet stewardship initiatives or modify existing programs. PSI hosts informative webinars, including “Carpet and Mattress Stewardship in Rural Areas,” which explored opportunities to increase recycling and build capacity for stewardship programs. PSI members and partners receive access to additional information.

Brings Stakeholders Together

PSI brings together industry, state and local governments, recyclers, and organizations to increase carpet collection and recycling. For instance, PSI coordinated and facilitated a National Carpet Stewardship Dialogue Stakeholder Meeting in 2014 that drew over 100 stakeholders to explore key issues and identify possible solutions.

Advocates for EPR legislation

PSI monitors, informs, advocates for, and offers expert testimony in support of product stewardship legislation for carpet. PSI has also worked with state and local government members to introduce carpet producer responsibility legislation. Through national strategy calls, we help states across the country build capacity for carpet stewardship legislation. With our members, we developed a menu of legislative elements that outlines EPR bill options for performance goals, convenience standards, reporting requirements, and outreach and education. In 2014, PSI worked with Illinois stakeholders to develop and introduce a carpet EPR bill, sparking conversations with CARE to increase state recycling rates.

Conducts Research

PSI has researched and compiled data on carpet production, composition, disposal, recycling, and environmental impacts, which we presented in an early Action Plan and Carpet Stewardship Briefing Document. PSI provides additional tools for governments, organizations, and others looking to start or promote carpet stewardship programs, including a How-To Guide for Advancing Carpet Stewardship.


We provide exclusive carpet-specific resources for PSI Members and Partners – login  or  learn more.

For more information, please contact Suna Bayrakal at (617) 671-0616.

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