Italian nylon fiber manufacturer Aquafil opened its first carpet recycling facility in the United States. The new 116,000 square feet building in Phoenix, Arizona, has the capacity to turn 36 million pounds of old carpets into raw material annually, the company says.
Aquafil manufactures a polymer called Nylon 6, and operates in two main product areas: bulk continuous filaments for carpets and nylon textile filaments for garments. The company has 16 plants that employ more than 2,700 people in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Thailand, China — and now the United States.
Aquafil USA president Franco Rossi said that 3.5 billion pounds of carpets get discarded every year in the United States, adding that only 2 or 3% of that amount is recycled — the rest goes to landfills or is incinerated.
At the new facility in Arizona, old carpets are broken down into three main components: polypropylene destined for the injection molding industry, calcium carbonate for road construction or concrete, and Nylon 6 that will go into the company’s Econyl regeneration process to create new products.
Nylon 6 polymer from the American recycling facility goes to an Aquafil depolymerization facility in Slovenia, where the polymer gets converted along with other plastic waste into Econyl fiber for apparel and carpets.
“In a circular economy industry, we should manufacture everything with the end in mind,” Giulio Bonazzi, Aquafil’s CEO, said at an opening ceremony for the Phoenix facility last month.
The company aims to build more carpet recycling facilities in the United States. At the inaugural event in Phoenix, Rossi announced plans to open a second recycling facility in Woodland, California, in 2019.
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