Carpet recycling measure passes assembly

Assemblyman Steve Englebright wants to roll out the red carpet for carpet recycling in New York state.

The Setauket Democrat is concerned too much old carpeting is ending up in landfills. That concern led him to introduce A.9279 to establish a carpet collection program in New York. The legislation passed the Assembly by a 106-38 vote, though companion legislation has yet to be introduced in the state Senate. Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, joined Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, in voting against the measure.

Englebright’s legislation would require carpet producers to either individually or collectively submit a plan to the Department of Environmental Conservation outlining the establishment of a carpet collection program and require those plans to describe how the program will provide for collection of carpet in a way that is both convenient and free of cost to consumers and carpet installers.

“I always love seeing bills that come before us that say this shall be at no expense,” Goodell said. “This program shall be free to the consumer. Well you know there’s no free lunch, there’s no free utilities, there’s no free student loans and there’s really no free carpet collection either. If there was a market and the carpet companies could make money by recycling it, well, they don’t need us to tell them how to make money. They know how to do it. We helped the aluminum market when we put in the nickel deposit. Remember when we did that? And we didn’t have to tell recyclers they could set up and collect a nickel on all these cans. And, in fact, from time to time I’ll see people with a big bag collecting those cans just for the nickel and recycle them. So the fact that the carpet manufacturers tell us they’re recyclable but haven’t actually set up anything is a pretty good indication there’s no money in it.”

The legislation also creates a 13-member Stewardship Advisory Board that includes carpet manufacturers, recyclers and consumer organizations to make recommendations to the state DEC, establishes a recycling rate goal and requires carpet manufacturers to include a label providing a producer name, contact information, material composition and construction information. Carpets would also not be allowed to use PFAS substances.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has previously estimated that every year an estimated five billion tons of carpet waste goes into landfills, an amount equal to roughly 17 pounds per person. Between 94% and 100% of carpet going to landfills is made from plastic. In addition, to requiring the use of petroleum products for production, discarded carpet also takes up a significant amount of landfill space, Englebright wrote in his legislative justification.

“I also just want to say this is a measure that that doesn’t come without any cost because the disposal costs of carpet right now are being born by our municipalities,” Englebright said. “So we don’t necessarily have to have a brand new square city block dedicated to carpet in 18 different places. The likelihood is it would be at the point of sale behind the Home Depot or behind the carpet store that they would have a place where the carpets can be stored prior to them being shipped back to the manufacturer. We have many products right now that are recycled in this way — thermostats, for example, all sorts of electronic devices and just last year we passed a paint recycling bill. So it is possible to deal with some of these intractable problems that are very, very costly to our mun jurisdictions. This is an effort to go in that direction and save our constituents as they pay those local taxes to save those dollars for our constituents.”

Goodell, however, noted the legislation requires one carpet collection site for each 10,000 people. And, he was concerned the legislation’s requirement to collect the old carpet for free will lead to price increases for local customers or for local carpet companies to struggle to offer the service for free, especially since there is no guarantee in the law that a customer has to purchase carpet from a company accepting old carpet to recycle.

“So, what happens?” Goodell asked. “What will happen? Carpet companies that are willing to stay in business in New York state will jack the price up. They have to. They don’t have any choice. They’re not in the market of providing free carpet to New Yorkers, as much as they might love us. So they have to jack up their price. They have to jack up their price to cover the disposal of other manufacturer’s carpet. And I’ll tell you what will happen. Your commercial companies, they’ll hire a carpet company from outside of New York and they’ll pull up with a moving van and they’ll load up the carpet they bought from some neighboring state and they’ll put it in because it’s going to cost them a whole lot less money to buy that carpet from out of state. And then they’re going to take that old carpet, roll it up and take it to the local recycling center where they can get rid of it for free. And that process will continue until it costs you a small fortune if you can even find it to buy carpet in New York.”

Goodell suggested a better alternative is to follow the can and bottle redemption model and create a market for the recycled carpet. Doing so, he said, will incentivize carpet companies in New York to push carpet recycling.

“If we want to encourage recycling of carpet, and I think we do, let’s focus our efforts on developing a market so we don’t have to force people to take it,” Goodell said. “If we develop a profitable market they’ll set it up themselves. The great thing about a competitive society is if people can make money, they will do it and we don’t have to force them. While I support the objective of encouraging carpet recycling, I think it’s a great idea, let’s do it by making it profitable for recyclers to locate in New York. This is not the right approach and sadly I don’t think it will work.”


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