Bonded Carpet Cushion and Flame Retardants

Bonded carpet cushion represents over 85% of the total cushion sold in the United States. It is manufactured from 100% recycled flexible polyurethane foam (FPF). The foam remnants consists of: 1) post-industrial foam which includes trim scrap from the manufacture and fabrication of mattresses, upholstered furniture and automotive components, and 2) post-consumer foam scrap including recycled carpet cushion and mattresses. If not used in bonded cushion these scrap foam materials would otherwise be relegated to landfills.

For many years various state and federal regulations required that products containing FPF manufactured by industries such as automotive, furniture and bedding comply with various flammability requirements. This required the addition of flame retardants (FRs) to meet mandatory flammability safety requirements.

Typically, furniture flammability standards such as California Bulletins TB 117 and TB 133 required the addition of FRs to comply with such standards. The automotive industry flammability standard MVSS 302 also requires addition of FRs for compliance. Other industries including aircraft seating, mass transportation, military and institutional mattresses also specify tests requiring the addition of FRs.

Flame retardants are NEVER added to bonded carpet cushion. However trace amounts of FRs can be found in bonded cushion due to their presence in the recycled FPF scrap used to manufacture the product.

PBDE

One commonly used FR beginning in the 1960's was Penta Brominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE). In 2005 the US flexible polyurethane foam industry voluntarily ceased using PBDE in the manufacture of its products. Foam produced in the pre-2005 era was eventually recycled into bonded cushion, and hence small amounts of PBDE began to be found in new cushion.

The Carpet Cushion Council (CCC) began an independent bonded cushion FR testing program beginning in 2006. Since the use of PBDE ceased, measured levels of PBDE have dramatically declined as seen in the following graph.

Several states have regulated PBDE levels at a maximum of 0.1% and as the testing results indicate measured levels have been below that for several years.

Other Flame Retardants

Following the phase-out of PBDE most FPF manufacturers began using a substitute FR known as Tris Dichloro Propyl Phosphate (TDCPP) in order to continue to meet the product flammability standards mentioned previously. Much higher concentrations of TDCPP, compared with PBDE, were needed to meet the requirements.

In 2013 California passed a new regulation which created a modified flammability standard, TB 117-2013. Furniture manufacturers could now meet this new flammability standard without requiring the use of FRs. Since that time TDCPP continues to primarily be used only in automotive foams, where strict flammability requirements still exist.

The CCC began measuring TDCPP levels in new bonded cushion and these concentrations have begun to decline, as did PBDE, as can be seen in the following graph.

While TDCPP levels are not yet consistently below 0.1%, they continue to trend lower over time. Bonded carpet cushion manufacturers continue to work diligently to reduce FR levels in their finished products by focusing on improving transparency in the foam supply chain. This is extremely challenging due to the fact that both post-industrial and post-consumer foam scrap is combined from a myriad of sources and is handled and often repackaged numerous times on its way from the original suppliers to the bonded cushion manufacturers.

Keeping tons of FPF scrap out of landfills by using it to manufacture bonded carpet cushion is a remarkable recycling success story. The CCC is an industry leader in projects associated with reduced VOC emissions such as the Green Label Plus Indoor Air Quality program for carpet cushion and stresses product stewardship on behalf of its members.