Even as California’s beverage recycling rates plummet, a relatively new carpet industry stewardship program is continuing to trend in a positive direction aimed at keeping more old carpets out of state landfills.

Launched just five years ago as a result of California law AB 2398, the carpet industry created the California Carpet Stewardship Program to increase the diversion and recycling of carpet in the state of California.

Since that time, the effort has focused on keeping old carpets out of landfills so they can be recycled, reused or diverted. In fact, the Carpet Stewardship Program is the only program approved by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) functioning in this space.

Overall, diversion rates have shown significant growth. In just five years, more than 575,000 metric tons of carpets have been kept out of landfills. The benefits of diversion are huge, especially in reducing greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions.

To put this in perspective, the carpet stewardship program has diverted enough carpet to result in a reduction in 62.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. That is equivalent to taking 121,594 passenger cars off of California roads and eliminating more than 1.3 billion miles driven by California motorists.

Despite significant market challenges – including decreased demand for recycled carpet, inexpensive new materials and lagging recycling technology – the stewardship program has shown an upward trend for recycling. From 2011 to 2016, the industry has diverted enough carpet to blanket the entire city of Santa Cruz more than twice over, or alternately over 17,500 football fields.

Today there are more than 250 collection sites for carpet recycling covering 42 of California’s 58 counties – accessible to 72% of state residents. The carpet stewardship program is working on the continued expansion of public drop-off locations. By the end of this year it is expected that every county in California will have at least one such drop-off center.

Like any program of this magnitude, patience, a steady approach and modest initial expectations are required for long-term success. The carpet industry is in this for the long haul; we appreciate our partnership with CalRecycle, which should be commended for taking the necessary time to nurture this program in a way that balances ambitious goals with realistic expectations and an appreciation for the unpredictable used-carpet marketplace. Through cooperation and a unified commitment, industry and CalRecycle are continuing to build a world-class recycling infrastructure that will increase green jobs and divert more and more old carpets from landfills and into newly recycled products.

Peoples is Executive Director of the Carpet American Recovery Effort (CARE), an industry group dedicated to advancing market-based solutions that increase landfill diversion and recycling of post-consumer carpet, encourage design for recyclability and meet meaningful goals.