Eco-Friendly Carpet

November 1st, 2007 BY Heather Utendorf | 28 Comments

Carpet companies are finally getting in the green game. Companies are fighting to find ways that make their products more environmentally friendly by experimenting with alternative, sustainable fibers and using more recycled materials. The manufacturers are scrambling to get products to the market quickly to meet the demand of conscious buyers.

Mohawk Flooring developed a manufacturing process to turn PET containers into carpet. The making of everSTRAND™ starts out by sorting PET bottles and then grinding them into small chips. The cleaned chips are then melted down and extruded into fiber before being spun into carpet yarn. Mohawk also uses the labels and caps from the PET containers to make the carpet core, the roll that carpet is wrapped around on showroom floors. According to their website, since 1999 they have recycled over 17 billion plastic bottles and that’s saved landfills 1 billion pounds of waste.

Shaw flooring has a slightly different spin than their main competition. They have a “cradle to cradle” approach to manufacturing. Conventionally, products are made from natural raw materials, developed into a product and eventually wind up in a landfill. Shaw’s innovative “Cradle to Cradle” approach utilizes carpet recycling centers across the country. These centers collect old carpeting, which is then manufactured back into new carpeting. Right now, Shaw has 32 recycling centers across the U.S. with plans to add more. They expect to collect close to 300 million pounds each year and that’s the equivalent to a 12’ roll of carpet over 10,000 miles long!

Corn Carpet is a newer company. They don’t just have a section of their business dedicated to the environment, but their whole business IS corn carpet. The life cycle is as followed:
1. Farmers harvest the corn and send it to the mill.
2. The corn is ground and cooked into a starch.
3. The starch is converted into sugar.
4. The sugar is converted into plastic.
5. The plastic is extruded into fibers about the same size as a human hair.
6. The fibers are spun into carpet yarn.

Some environmental benefits of corn carpet include:
• Reduced CO2 emissions by the lack of petroleum in the product
• Built-in stain protection
• Biodegradable in landfills

Corn Carpet also comes in many of the same popular styles of conventional product and a wide variety of colors too. Although the other major companies are making strides, Corn Carpet seems to be a real innovator in the field.

With any luck, other carpet mills will take notice of the changes going on in the major manufacturers and follow suit. Better yet, hopefully companies will think even further out of the box like Corn Carpet and develop completely new ways of developing environmentally friendly flooring!

  1. Kathy

    The problem with Corn Carpeting is that the corn used to make the carpet is GMO-corn, which is liberally sprayed with pesticides, further polluting the environment. (And the energy consumed to convert the corn into starch, into sugar, into plastic and then finally into yarn is more than it would take to produce regular carpeting. The same argument is true for ethanol.) Unless you are going to grow GMO-free corn without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, or find a better way to convert it without consuming so much fossil fuel, corn carpet is a solution that is worse than the problem.

    • Responses to Kathy
      Bill says:
      July 24

      Kathy is right on target and she did not even touch on the effect of Corn Carpet on the price of food. What’s your food bill? Need we say more?

    • 3
      Randy says:
      February 21

      I am a farmer from NE that is looking into corn carpet for my office. I do raise corn and would like to correct some misconceptions you have. 1st, GMO corn is modified so the plant expresses a naturally occuring protein in the green tissue only of the plant that is toxic to certain insects that feed on corn, thereby ELIMINATING the need to use pesticides on that crop. 2nd, the latest research on Ethanol demonstrates that ethanol produces 2.8 units of energy for every unit used to produce it whereas crude oil delivers .88 units for each unit used to pump process and deliver crude oil.

      • 4
        February 18

        Randy: how much is the cost per acre to irrigate the corn you raise? Also how much is the precentage of eficency loss in youre irrigation system?

        • 5
          Amanda MS says:
          February 19

          My parents (in laws, grandparents, aunts and uncles also) are farmers. Not a single one of them irrigates their farms. They use the rain water to grow their crops and if there is a draught it is devistating to them.
          Corn has been genetically altered to protect itself against pests as have the soy beans. When I was a kid (I’m now 30) I used to have to walk soy beans and spray the weeds and they used to have to spray the crops with pestisides and such. Nobody walks beans anymore. It’s just not needed.
          There are certainly arguments against making so many corn based products. Corn is hard on the soil which is why every farmer I know rotates their crops. Also it can drive up the cost of corn based products in your grocery store.
          I’m purchasing corn based carpet in my home because it is nearly impossible to stain and I have four kids a dog and a cat. It is much more eco-friendly for me to use a corn based product then to have to replace the nylon carpet in my house every three years. I am very happy and thankful for this wonderful innovation in carpet!!

      • 6
        Kathy Hall says:
        November 16

        One of the insects GMO corn KILLS (not resists) is butterflies. Monarch butterflies in particular. not what I want – a world without butterlies in order to have corn syrup, corn carpet, etc.

    • 7
      Pat says:
      February 26

      We need a scientific comparison. Sheep are harmful to the environment and require feed, transport, medication and chemicals to keep healthy. One thing that seems certain is both corn and wool are preferable to synthetics.

  2. tater03

    Very interesting article. Considering so many people are now trying to live more green and building houses that are more green this is a great thing for the carpet industry to do.

  3. Jewel

    I did not even know that carpet could be eco-friendly, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read this. It’s an interesting process, how the carpet is produced.

  4. Sally

    I loved this piece. I purchased Corn Carpet three months ago and it looks wonderful. Although GoGreen seems to want to promote mohawk, he is misinformed about what I found when I was shopping. CornCarpet IS a carpet company. I purchased it from my local retailer in NYC. But I’m sure that the other company you mentioned is also promoting it. It seems like Mohawk and Karastan have a different type of Dupont fiber that they just started to develop PARTLY from corn in the last year, it seems they also are headed the right direction.

  5. tater03

    Why do they do things like this? I mean the label it eco-friendly and then come to find out it really is not. That is so frustrating and disheartening when I see this kind of stuff.

    • Responses to tater03
      Sally says:
      July 29

      Though it isn’t a perfect eco world yet, I would rather give my money to the Farmers then to some rich greedy “oil terrorists”, whom destory our eco system. Keep in mind almost all carpet is made from plastic (ie: oil). So we have a choice to sit on a pile of black sluge or corn. I choose corn.

  6. gar_fanatic

    The benefit of corn carpeting is the biodegradability. I don’t think any other carpet is biodegradable.

    • Responses to gar_fanatic
      Brad says:
      April 4

      Doesnt biodegradable imply bacteria and mold? That doesn’t sound like something that would be good for my house’s air quality.

    • 15
      Luke says:
      April 3

      It’s important to note that just because it’s biodegradable doesn’t mean it’s going to degrade in your average landfill. This just don’t break down in heaping pile of trash like they would in nature.

    • 16
      cool beans says:
      September 13

      year i agree

  7. Michael

    There is another carpet manufacturer using recycled pop bottles called Berkshire Flooring. They’ve taken it one step further than Mohawk though… They’re cutting their product into residential carpet tiles. Carpet tile is inherently lower in waste materials both in manufacturing and in installation. Additionally they use a domestically grown soy bio-based backing that is rapidly renewable. Thank goodness these guys are getting the message that as consumers we want green products!

  8. Andy

    Use wool guys… heavens these wooly beasts eat grass..whose carbon content goes into wool or meat ..the eaten grass regrows and sequesters more co2 from the atmosphere.
    Nylon production involves crude oil…benzene…cyclohexane….nitric acidic…and NO2 given off which is a green house gas with far greater potential to create warming than co2….WOOL IS BRILLIANT!!

  9. Steve

    Ok I really like the wool discussion as well.

    Corn Hmmmm Food Price increases
    Fallow land reintroduced for growing corn can acutally increase temps ”thermal gains” from tilled soil.
    what is the cost to maufacture the final product?
    Currently Corn based ethanol is not eco friendly or cost effective so why would carpet fiber be?

    Upsides – well if it does reduce oil dependancy I am all for that but what about wool?

    • Responses to Steve
      Andy says:
      May 13

      Louis de poortere are releasing anew product called eco-dream, totally biodegradable…yes there are some other products that are biodegradable, but I have heard there are performance issues…this is woven..a wilton by the look of the picture I have seen, and made of wool,non dyed wool, jute and cotton and free from chemical additives on the back.
      Some synthetics are reused and go into another carpet or into another product. My issue here is that this is just down cycling it will still end up as landfill somewhere. I have read that nylon can only be reextruded so many times before it loses its properties, and then only nylon 6 is useful ( I stand to be corrected), most carpets these days are made from Nylon 6,6 which is different chemically and cannot be re extruded…again this is from what I have read…so please feel free to correct me.
      Wool is natural, has amazing properties, and we are now looking at a truly cradle to cradle product in the LDP carpet. Wool can be used as a fertiliser….which can grow grass…sheep eat the grass more wool…complete cycle! Perfect!

  10. renee

    hey i need carpet……:)

    • Responses to renee
      Sharon says:
      June 30

      Hi Renee,do yourself and favour and buy Wool Carpet ,it will last for at least 30 years if looked after.
      Carpet sellers dont promte wool caprets because it lasts too long and means they dont get another sale in 8 or so years time.


  11. Andy

    I did try and reply last week, seems the post did not go on. Louis de portere have made a totally biodegradable wool carpet, called Eco-dream…that will also perform on the floor. There are some natural wool products out there, but there has always been a wee bit of a performance question mark. Bear in mind that synthetic products are derived from crude oil..a non sustainable resource..also whilst they recycle products…I would actually say they down cycle products..and really move the issue of what happens at the end of the new products life elsewhere…there is I believe only a set number of times nylon can be re-extruded. Wool products are the only ones that can be and are now available as cradle to cradle products…ie could feasibly be returned to the soil and used to regrow grass..sheep eat…more wool..nice eh!

  12. EcoCleanHome

    It’s really amazing how more and more businesses are turning toward sustainable solutions! This is the real change that everyone should follow.
    The future is green :)

  13. Mary

    Wool is wonderful, perfectly fitting into an ecological cycle AND expensive, initially and to maintain. Corn carpet cleans up with warm water, which speaks well of not putting more detergents in your floor space.

  14. Andy

    I am dubious of these eco friendly synthetic products…check the actual amount of corn fibre in your product…it will be a small portion I suspect. The greatest percentage will still be made of non sustainable polyester or nylon.
    The process to produce fibre is energy intensive, and your carn carpet fibre is made of propanediol it…not really very green.

  15. Maria Cali

    I am trying to contact your marketing department. Can you please contact me with this information.

    Maria Cali

  16. Carpets for Less

    Jute, sisal and abaca are few of the eco-friendly component of modern carpeting. Although these are not as soft or as easy to clean as synthetic carpets but have a small carbon footprint and are biodegradable. If you are concern for the environment, then choose eco-friendly carpets, it has a big impact to the environment.

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