Drink Up and Make Your Feet Happy?
Many years ago we walked on the moon, and although that event was tremendously exciting, advances in the ‘green revolution’ are making headlines as well. As environmental awareness expands, corporations are realizing that there is a huge untapped market to capitalize upon. While some may negatively judge the motivations of corporate America, at the bottom line, the environmental movement is still benefiting even if companies are showing their ‘green’ side for the sake of profit.
Nearly every industry is seeing some form of change in either how products are being manufactured or how waste is being managed. The flooring industry and the plastics industry are no exception to the rule. Mohawk, a dominate player in the flooring industry (carpet, ceramic tile, laminate, area rugs and hardwood) has developed a manner of recycling plastic bottles and turning them into carpet.
Meanwhile, the GrassRoots Recycling Network is targeting Coca-Cola, which they have described as “the champion beverage industry waste-maker, responsible for plummeting plastic bottle recycling rates and a rising flood of soda bottle waste.” They have criticized Coke for leading the beverage industry away from aluminum cans and glass bottles towards plastic bottles made with little or no recycled plastic. It is said that Coke's plastic soda bottle waste in the last five years would fill 15 Georgia Domes. Similarly, if you laid all the littered, landfilled and incinerated Coke bottles end to end, they would stretch from Atlanta to Los Angeles and back 868 times. In an effort to tackle this problem from a governmental standpoint (as opposed to the business perspective of Mohawk), local government officials from Florida to Minnesota have passed resolutions calling on Coke to make new plastic soda bottles with recycled plastic. They argued that these bottles could be used again to make new bottles if Coke would take responsibility for its waste. As is, Coke makes bottles with 25 percent recycled plastic in other countries, but not in the United States. It is the efforts of companies like Mohawk that are going to make true progress in the environmental stability of the Earth. It is one thing to try and convince another company to change their manner of operation, but it is another thing to recognize an opportunity and capitalize on it such as Mohawk has done. Currently, Mohawk recycles around three billion plastic bottles every single year. And even more impressively, they have recycled more than 17 billion bottles since 1999. That translates into one billion pounds of plastic that has avoided being dumped into landfills.
So how is Mohawk carpet doing this? Mohawk manufactures a carpet type under the moniker everSTRAND™. It is made using PET, which comes from recycled plastic bottles and thus contains 100 percent post-consumer recycled content. Humorously, this carpet type is actually superior in quality to many other low-grade synthetics because plastic beverage bottles are required by the United States Food and Drug Administration to be made with top quality PET. The manufacturing process starts with the bottles being sorted and then ground into fine chips. These chips then go through a cleaning process. The cleaning process is then followed by a process that melts the chips into fiber and spins it into carpet yarn. Mohawk assures its customers that they are acutely focused on quality control thus allowing them to provide high quality performance carpet.
Mohawk has really taken the recycling notion beyond the call of duty and has made sure to recycle all portions of the bottle. This is smart business not only for the environment but also for this company, which is obviously innovative in reducing waste whether that waste comes from excess labor or from left-over bottle caps. This brings up an interesting point – many companies spend millions of dollars hiring consultants to analyze their business model to find ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency. What Mohawk is doing clearly answers the call to efficiency, while also making a positive influence in the environmental stability of the Earth. The plastic bottle cap and the label are used by Mohawk to manufacture carpet cores. These cores are then reused over and over again, unlike the standard (and now old-fashioned) cardboard cores that would typically be discarded after a single use. To answer the question of how many bottles are needed to make a square yard of Mohawk everSTRAND™ carpet - on average, 30 plastic bottles.
So, for as long as Coca-Cola is dragging its feet in the recycling world, Mohawk is doing its part to counter Coke’s behavior. Coca-Cola had been using recycled plastic in bottles in the United States from 1991 to 1994, but it then abandoned the initial technology. The Container Recycling Institute, which is based in Arlington, Virginia, reports that the 10 states with so-called 'bottle bill' laws report recycling rates two to three times higher than non-deposit states. It is said that a bottle bill in Georgia would produce a steady stream of recycled bottles which could be used by both Coke and the carpet industry. The carpet industry is one of Georgia's largest employers and the largest end-user of recycled plastic soda bottles in the nation.