What do competitive windsurfing and old carpets have in common? They’re both passions for Kelly McCaig, V.P. and General Manager of CarpetCycle Canada. CarpetCycle Canada is an energized start up carpet recycler that processes locally in Toronto. McCaig and his team occupy a section of the former stockyards industrial space at 500 Keele Street in the city’s “Junction” district. It may be just basic concrete walls and floors, but the “can do” enthusiasm infuses this small team: the staff demonstrate enormous pride in doing things right, which McCaig learned from his grandfather back in rural Manitoba.
McCaig discovered his path of environmentalism in young adulthood. As a Canadian windsurfing champion (he won Gold in the 1993 Canada Games) he spent his early years on and around the waters of Lake Winnipeg and came to appreciate the beauty and power of Canada’s most abundant natural resource. How waste and pollution can destroy that most resource became apparent when, at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Kelly observed debris chunks floating on the city’s scenic waterfront — pollution that could only get worse if left unchecked. So, returning to Canada, he set his path to make the environment part of his life and career path.
It’d be tough to find a more upbeat and committed environmentalist than Kelly McCaig. He has the passion and the vision of what environmental sustainability could be. He surveys his surroundings and dreams of “recycling plazas” where different material processors work adjacently, enabling a client to truck in a load of mixed materials and have it all serviced in one industrial space. He looks at how an hourly-rate “picking and processing” job can develop into something more meaningful for his employees, as green jobs become something everyone can build a life upon.
After seven years in the electronics recycling industry, McCaig struck out on his own to tackle a material that takes up three to four per cent of the municipal waste stream. He took an equity stake in a private company, CarpetCycle L.L.C. (New Jersey), and brought it home to Canada.
“Efficiency of process is how you make this business work,” McCaig says. “The three main challenges carpet recycling face aren’t much different than in other budding recycling streams: behavior change on the part of consumers, end-users and government; sustainable, local end-markets; “greenwashing” and lack of awareness regarding environmentally sound options.
CarpetCycle Canada strives for better solutions to help its customers’ triple-bottom line. Since the bulk of installed carpeting is in urban centres, establishing local processing facilities not only helps create social awareness and jobs, but also decreases costs and the overall carbon footprint.
Carpet recycling involves several steps to ensure maximum environmental performance. Upon arrival, carpets are sorted by polymer type (nylon, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, wool, etc.). The carpets are then processed in “batch” loads and sheared to separate the fibre from the backing. This fibre must be extruded and pelletized before being re-manufactured into new carpet fibres or other products, thereby replacing the use of virgin resins. The backing is further processed to separate the remaining fibre from the rigid scrim. The backing is made of polypropylene, glues and calcium carbonate. The majority of these materials can be recycled into new products such as under-the-hood auto parts, plastic components and other industrial items. The foam padding is also recycled into new foam padding and products (shredded and reprocessed). CarpetCycle Canada is proud to say they have sent zero residue to landfill since opening the Canadian operations in the summer of 2011.
McCaig acknowledges the support for carpet recycling demonstrated by the following companies that actively promote recycling efforts in Canada: Belletile (100 per cent Canadian), Milliken Carpet, Kraus Carpet & Flooring and Mohawk Flooring.
Team CarpetCycle comprises: Operations Manager, Luis Correa, Darrell Goodman, Ryder MacDonald, Jason Edmunds, Mason Chisholm, Trevor Griffith, Alif Rabbil, Horatio Glaves, Bill Evans and Mathilde Beluze — future recycling champions, one and all.
Diane Blackburn is Events Manager for the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) in Toronto, Ontario. CarpetCycle Canada is an RCO member and applicant in the RCO’s 2012 Ontario Waste Minimization Awards. Contact Diane at firstname.lastname@example.org