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Carpet Lifecycle

The life cycle of a particular carpet accounts for every impact on the environment that the carpet has from the day it is made until the end of its useful life when it is disposed of or recycled. The life cycle of various carpets can differ greatly depending on several factors. Use this section to discover how the manufacturing, transportation, installation, and disposal of carpet play important roles in a carpet's life cycle.

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Manufacturing of Carpet

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Most carpet in use today is made from nylon, polypropylene, or polyester all of which are petroleum based fibers whose manufacturing often results in increased greenhouse gas emissions. There are several alternative green fibers to choose from such as recycled nylon, recycled P.E.T. polyester (made from recycled plastic bottles), or renewable resources such as sugar derived from corn. It is also important to consider the backing, adhesives, and padding used in the construction of a carpet. For low VOC emitting carpet products, choose those with the Carpet and Rug Institute's (CRI) Green Label or Green Label Plus. Also choose products that are made with recycled content or renewable resources whenever possible. For more information on this, visit FindAnyFloor's® section on Green Carpet Fibers.

Transportation of Carpet

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45% of the world's carpet is produced in the United States, most of it in Georgia. In fact, 80% of the carpet produced in the United States is made within a 65–mile radius of Dalton, Georgia, a small town known as the "Carpet Capital of the World." Most carpet in the U.S. is transported to its destination by use of trucks. In terms of transport, carpet tends to have a significantly lower carbon footprint than floors like bamboo and cork – one reason being that the raw materials do not usually have to travel far distances to reach the United States. Another reason is that carpet is significantly lighter than most other types of flooring which equals less fuel usage. Some types of less common carpet such as wool often comes from across seas resulting in extra energy consumption due to lengthy shipping. When possible, it is best to use carpet from local resources that requires minimal shipping lengths.

Leaders in Developing Carpet with a Healthy Life Cycle

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Overall, a healthy carpet lifecycle would be one that uses local resources that require short shipping distances. The carpet should also be made from renewable resources or recycled content and must be recyclable at the end of its life. In addition, the carpet should emit very low levels of VOCs and be installed with low VOC emitting padding and applicable adhesives. Carpet manufacturers that are doing their part by implementing responsible carpet manufacturing processes include, but are not limited to:

(Click links above to be directed to the Manufacturer's site for more info.)

Installation of Carpet

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Proper installation of carpet is essential to its overall lifetime. There are two main carpet installation methods: stretch–in and glue down. The stretch–in method is often used for broadloom carpet, which is cut to fit the room and laid down over carpet padding then secured by means of tack–less strips around the perimeter of the installation area. Glue down, on the other hand, is only suitable for some broadloom carpet types and involves gluing the carpet directly to the subfloor, or, in some cases, to the carpet padding (a process referred to as "double glue down"). When using glue down installation methods, choose adhesives that are proven to emit low VOC's such as those that meet or exceed E–1 emission standards (European standards for VOC content) or have the CRI Green Label. There are also carpet tiles that are installed with doubled sided tape or adhesive tabs which can also qualify for the CRI Green Label.

In order to ensure a proper installation, which is crucial to the lifetime of the carpet, be sure to ask your installer if they adhere to CRI's installation standards. To find a professional carpet installer in your area, simply search by your zip code using the locator tool at the top of this page.

Disposal of Carpet

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Over 6 billion pounds of carpet enter the waste stream each year, most of which are petroleum based and will not decompose over time. It doesn't have to be that way. Many types can be recycled, and virtually all carpet can be safely incinerated in energy recovery systems. A closed loop or cradle to cradle recycling program is the most preferred. Carpet made with cotton and wool, on the other hand, will decompose over time after disposal.

To reduce carpet disposal you can also choose carpet tiles which allow easy spot replacement when needed rather than replacing the entire carpet. Visit FindAnyFloor's section on Carpet and Recycling to learn more about recycling carpet and to find carpet reclamation centers near you.