Trento, Italy-based Aquafil, a leading manufacturer of Nylon 6, has opened its first U.S. carpet recycling facility in Phoenix. More than 160 customers, suppliers and sustainability experts gathered at the grand opening of the 116,000-square-foot Aquafil Carpet Recycling (ACR) No. 1 facility in December.
Aqaufil USA President Franco Rossi says 3.5 billion pounds of carpets are discarded each year in the U.S. Only 2 or 3 percent is recycled and the rest "goes to landfill or is incinerated."
The facility will have the capacity to collect and process 35 million pounds of carpet per year.
At the recycling facility, old carpets are broken down into three main components: polypropylene (PP), Nylon 6 and Nylon 6 fiber. The PP will go into the injection molding industry, while the Nylon 6 and Nylon 6 fiber will be shipped to Aquafil’s Slovenia-based facility and converted into nylon yarn for the fashion and interior industries.
ACR uses what the company says is the only technology capable of converting Nylon 6 from carpets and other end-of-life products, including fishing nets, back into raw material.
Aquafil President and CEO Giulio Bonazzi says the idea of creating a network of carpet recycling facilities started 20 years ago with a conversation he had with Ray Anderson, the late founder of Georgia-based carpet flooring company Interface.
“In a circular economy industry, we should manufacture everything with the end in mind,” Bonazzi says.
David Oakey, the carpet designer for Interface, spoke at the event, saying, “I think Ray Anderson is smiling today.”
In 1996, Anderson declared that his company would become sustainable and established “Mission Zero 2020." Bonazzi says Aquafil was among the first suppliers to respond to his call to action.
The Phoenix plant will create 50 new jobs and will bring Aquafil closer to its goal of producing ECONYL yarn from 100 percent postconsumer material.
The Aquafil Group has plants in Italy, the U.S., Germany, the U.K., Slovenia, Croatia, China and Thailand. Rossi announced on stage the opening of a second carpet recycling facility in Woodland, California, in 2019.