Your stained shag carpet could stop the oil spill. At least one Florida county is using GeoHay, or bales of recycled carpet, to help protect the shoreline from some of the oil spilling into the Gulf from the broken BP oil well. GeoHay is a temporary erosion control device that lets water flow but absorbs suspended oil and other sediments. It is used as an alternative to hay bales and silt fences.
Synthetic carpet is non-biodegradable, which is usually a negative. It means it might sit in landfills for thousands of years. However, the non-sustainable, non-biodegradable nature of traditional carpet makes it perfect for a messy oil spill job. Straw and hay bales are less effective because they are biodegradable, and gradually erode as water breaks them down.
Officials in Walton County, in the eastern end of the Florida panhandle, are using GeoHay to protect dune lakes and white sand beaches.† GeoHay is one of many creative uses of old carpet. The Carpet America Recovery Effort lists local carpet recycling sites here. The group boasts it kept more than 300 million pounds of used carpet out of landfills last year, turning 80 percent into other consumer products.
In addition to forming GeoHay for erosion control, used carpet fibers can be turned into construction materials, coal substitutes, plastics and new carpet.
- NyconG is a reinforcing fiber for concrete and other construction materials. It is made from 100 percent recycled carpet and carpet backing. The manufacturer promises the material lowers production costs and may be eligible for tax credits and LEED credit savings.
- Kela Energy uses recycled coal waste and used carpet fibers to create an alternative energy source that burns cleaner, hotter and more efficiently than coal.
- Los Angeles Fiber and several other companies make new carpet from your old carpet. Other companies are making a variety of plastics, including bottles and car parts, from used carpet fibers.
Finally, options for reusing before recycling your carpet include:
- Cover compost heaps and worm compost bins to trap heat and moisture.
- Cover a field of weeds with carpet. Within weeks, it will all be dead and you can replant with new sod or other plants.
- Find a new home for the carpet on Craigslist or FreeCycle.
- Check with your local animal shelter. It may want the used carpet patches for its cat cages.
- Put it in a greenhouse to keep plants off the cold floor.
No matter what, donít throw away old carpet. Even if it doesnít stop the oil spill, it can certainly be put to good use.