On Friday the California Legislature overwhelmingly passed a landmark bill that will transform the carpet industry by requiring manufacturers to increase recycling and address the environmental concerns posed by the production and disposal of carpet. A coalition of environmental, public health, local governments, carpet industry representatives, and unions supported the legislation, and now urge Gov. Brown to sign it into law.

“AB 1158 represents a major victory for California and the nation,” said Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director of the National Action Stewardship Council, the sponsor of the bill. “By mandating the carpet industry increase the amount of carpet they recycle and ensuring consumers aren’t unknowingly funding carpet disposal, we can increase green jobs, improve public health, and protect the environment.”

Carpets are comprised of 99% plastic, which is made from fossil fuels. In 2016 alone, over 257 million pounds of carpets were dumped in landfills (about 2% of total disposed) and over 20 million pounds were burned in incinerators, just in California. Carpet production is projected to grow 4.5% annually to 14.6 billion square feet by 2019 in the U.S., so carpet production and disposal will have major repercussions for our health and environment.

In 2010 California became the only state to require carpet manufacturers to implement a stewardship program to increase the recycling of carpet (AB 2398, Perez). Since passage, the carpet industry has failed to achieve meaningful progress. “The program has collected over $45 million in consumer fees to date, yet has barely increased recycling. Meanwhile, the industry has dramatically increased incineration, which disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities,” explains Miriam Gordon, with Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. “AB 1158 will put an end to consumers paying an assessment in good faith that their discarded carpet will be recycled, when it fact it’s not.”

AB 1158 would reform the program by mandating the industry increase the rate of carpet recycling to rate 24% by 2020, ending the consumer subsidization of carpet incineration, incentivizing the production of more recyclable carpets, and providing proper training for carpet installers. The bill is authored by Assemblyman Kansen Chu (D-San Jose), and co-authored by Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz).

“AB 1158 enacts a series of common sense reforms to the state’s struggling carpet recycling program, and, most importantly, it will finally deliver the real recycling that California consumers have been paying for since 2011,” noted Nick Lapis, with Californians Against Waste.

The bill also addresses the climate crisis by reducing fossil fuel emissions. For every additional percentage of carpet discards that gets recycled instead of incinerated, the equivalent of 5,934 tons of CO2 emissions is reduced. “California’s ambitious cap on greenhouse gas emissions (SB 32, 2016) and its embrace of the landmark international Paris Accord will require all sectors to take aggressive action to achieve our goals,” said Bill Magavern, Policy Director of Coalition for Clean Air. “AB 1158 would help our state reach its target of emitting 40% fewer GHG emissions by 2030. We urge the Governor sign this bill.”

Major carpet companies – including Interface and Tarkett – have already proven that the mood of the market is clear with an increasing demand for safer, environmentally friendly, sustainable products. “As one of the carpet industries’ recycling pioneers, Tandus Centiva is in support of this bill. The proposed legislation aligns with our parent company Tarkett’s sustainability principles, which include taking back product for recycling through our ReStart program,” said Len Ferro, President of Tandus Centiva, a Tarkett company. “Tarkett’s 2020 sustainability goals focus on Closing the Loop, creating products within a circular economy, and following product principles outlined by Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. These values work in tandem with this legislation.”

“Interface supports this bill because it is an important step forward toward a stronger carpet stewardship program in California. Recycling carpet at end of life is especially difficult in this era of low petroleum prices, making it economically challenging. As a result, a robust stewardship plan is that much more important today,” said Matt Miller, president of Interface Americas. “We are leading the way, driving our entire industry to commit to the circular economy, as we are doing through our own ReEntry program. Together we must harvest the valuable materials from carpet at end of life and use them to create new carpet and other products.”

“On behalf of District Council 16 Business Manager Chris Christophersen and the California Floor Covering Installers of the IUPAT, we are proud to have been a part of moving this important legislation forward to ensure our members are on the front lines of changing the culture of carpet recycling in California,” said Mike West, International Union of Painters and Trades (IUPAT). “For us that change begins in our training centers by learning about and working with products that have a higher probability of being recycled. I thank the administration and the other stakeholders for working with us on AB 1158 and hope that Governor Brown will quickly sign it into law.”

“By signing AB 1158, the Governor would once again enshrine California has the unquestioned leader when it comes to passing landmark environmental and public health protection laws that often serve as models for the nation to follow,” concluded Heidi Sanborn.

For more information, visit www.calpsc.org.