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