Wall-to-wall improvements with the environment in mind

by Carolyn Chase
nvironmental technology, design and product innovation is a theme for Western Solutions, a division of E.T.C. Carpet Mills where its mission statement includes that it will "at all times be an environmentally concerned manufacturer to better serve the health and welfare of end users."
Along those lines, the company is the first carpet manufacturer in this country to make all its products out of recyclable nylon fibers and yarns. "We are going to be the first high profile commercial carpet mill to lead the industry into environmental awareness," said president Norm Wool.
The first areas of environmental improvement are related to recyclability and the dying process.

Closing the loops

To tell you the truth, I'd never considered recycling carpet. By the time carpet is ready to be replaced, it is usually in such a condition that I wouldn't think it could be recycled. And up until now it couldn't. But this new line of "Environmental Solutions" carpets will be able to be recycled by the fiber manufacturer BASF.
"We made our deal with BASF because its fiber program is almost entirely metal free, and allows the carpet to be recycled after it is used," Wool said.
At the end of its useful life, consumers may return the carpet - identified as part of the 6ix Again program by a backstamp on the carpet. BASF will then recycle the recovered fiber components into new carpet yarn or other products.
How much carpet could there be to recycle? The carpet industry typically makes 1.3 to 1.5 billion yards of carpet per year. Of that, 800 millions yards are used as replacement carpet. Those 800 million yards of worn out carpet are currently heading into landfills.

Colors to dye for

The colors of the carpets themselves will also reflect the environment by emulating ocean environments, rich mountain tones and subtle desert hues. But how are these colors put into carpet? Manufacturers traditionally piece-dye carpet by placing the yarn into a vat of dye and water. Instead, E.T.C. is using fibers where the color is placed into the fiber itself as it is being formed. Coloring at this point in the process eliminates a variety of problems associated with water-based dying including wastewater, color consistency, and the ability to withstand staining and cleaning later.
A further part of its environmental approach is their unique "scouring" process. The carpets are washed in a 212-degree hot water bath to remove any contaminants. "We've developed a closed-loop hot water scouring process that never cools off and can be used over and over again," said Wool. This also deters delamination, in which the carpet backing separates inappropriately.
Wool hopes to lead the industry into environmental awareness. "We want to make a statement to the industry about its stand on the environment. The more environmentally-aware fibers offer a better quality of goods, more advantageous pricing and environmental benefits. We can improve our product, the environment and our profit margin. It's the best of all worlds. Western Solutions will dare to experiment. End users have become aware of environmental concerns. We want people to think 'safe carpet - Western Solutions'."

Ed note: "Environmental Solutions" carpets are available locally at Contract Carpet in Encinitas and Carmel Mountain Plaza.