Recycling

  32 | January 28 / February 4, 2008
fcnews
 

Cushion

Recycling carpet cushion revealed

T he greatest recycling story never told is the production of bonded foam, or rebond. Through its production, the flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) industry has become a leader in recycling efforts and in avoiding landfill use. Recovering, remanufacturing and recycling scrap foam generated from carpet cushion waste and other sources benefits both the economy and the environment.

Bonded foam is a carpet cushion product made from pieces of shredded, flexible foam held together with a polyurethane binder. Several other types of cushion materials include fiber, polyurethane foam and rubber.

Approximately 89% of all domestically produced carpet cushion is bonded foam. The remaining 11% is divided among the other types of cushioning materials—fiber, polyurethane foam,rubber, and mechanically frothed polyurethane.

Scrap foam, consisting of skins, side and the bottom trip, is generated in the manufacture of flexible polyurethane foam. Different grades of foam are produced during one production run, with no stoppage during the change over. Additional scrap foam is generated during fabrication as large foam blocks are cut into the desired shapes for bedding, upholstered furniture or the automotive industries.

The manufacture of bonded carpet cushion consists of chopping flexible polyurethane foam (usually scrap foam) into small pieces, bonding these under pressure with a polyurethane binder into blocks, cutting long thin slices of certain length, thickness and width, and adding a slip film to one side.

Historically, bonded foam production has been able to absorb all of the FPF scrap generated in the U.S. during end-product manufacturing. The processing of bonded cushion also consumes a growing amount of consumer take-up foam scrap that is generated as old carpets and carpet cushion are replaced.

Bill Haines

BILL
HAINES

It is estimated there are 12.3 billion pounds of bonded carpet cushion installed on floors in homes and offices in the United States.

The foam scrap used in new bonded cushion is thought to range from between 60% to 70% post-industrial scrap and 30% to 40% post-consumer scrap. The latter includes annually an estimated 300 million to 400 million pounds of take-up foam cushion collected primarily from carpet installers by carpet recycling specialists, thus diverting it from landfills.

Under general industry practice, the percentage of takeup foam cushion used in new bonded cushion, if any, varies between 5% and 20% (for medium density products) and 40% to 50% (for high-density products). Take-up of post-consumer scrap foam is not used to produce low-density (3-4 pound) bonded cushion.

Recycling now provides a market for virtually 100% of all flexible scrap generated during product fabrication and a large share of post consumer scrap by carpet installers.

Manufacturers benefit from the convenience and economy of foam recycling. Buyers are easy to locate, and they are looking for scrap sources to meet market demands. The major use of recycled foam is in the bonded carpet underlay, which is considered among the highest quality carpet cushion product.

 
Bill Haines was the previous Executive Director of the Carpet Cushion Council. Bob Clark is the current Executive Director and he can be reached at 484-687-5170 or bclark@carpetcushion.org.