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In Carpet Capitol of the World, Carpet Edging is Green Fuel

June 2, 2010 - 4:55pm

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Forget solar or wind.  In the carpet capitol of the world, Shaw Industries, Inc. in Dalton, Ga., is sticking to what it knows best: carpet.

The flooring company sends a good portion of the trimmings from its carpet-producing facility to its waste-to-energy plant, which turns the material into steam by heating it with extreme temperatures to power the plant’s dye-processing machines. And soon, another Shaw facility will have a plant just like it, meaning all the trimmings that come out the company’s eight production facilities—and some from other companies’ facilities—will end up as fuel.

More than 90 percent of the functional carpet produced in the world today is made within a 65-mile radius of Dalton.  “We could probably take everyone’s in town,” says Jerry Zolkowski, an engineer manager at Shaw, referring to the millions of tons of trimmings produced annually from carpet manufacturing businesses in the area. “And we probably will.”

For now, though, they are gathering about 25,000 pounds of trimmings left over from the manufacturing process every day from two of their plants located in Dalton. This has been going on for the last four years. Using the leftovers saved the company over $650,000 in 2008.

“One of the largest waste streams [at the plants] is selvedge,” Zolkowski says, of carpet edging. “We would otherwise be throwing away a high-energy product. It’s a natural fit for the plant.”

Where does the material come from?

As the carpet goes through the production process, machines grab onto the edges to move it along to the next task.  Once the carpet is complete, the parts where the machines had to grab hold of are cut off, leaving behind plenty of leftovers. The selvedge is then delivered to the plant, where it goes through a gasification process.

Why carpet?

  • Carpet makes a good alternative energy product because it has oil-derived polymers that are free from impurities and represent a cleaner, oil-based, fuel. The process helps facilities lower emissions, compared to consumption of coal and fuel oil. It also saves energy and money and keeps millions of pounds of carpet trimming out of landfills.Source: EPA

The plant produces about 60 million BTUs an hour, 24 hours a day for five days, and supplies enough power for one of its dye-processing machine and half the energy for the other one.

Shaw also uses saw dust, or what the staff likes to call wood flour, at the existing plant from the laminate plant in nearby Ringgold, Ga.

New plant to be powered by carpet

A new manufacturing plant, scheduled to be complete in fall 2010, will run on all the selvedge from Shaw's eight Dalton area plants, plus additional selvedge from other companies and used carpet donated by consumers. This will not be a gasification plant, rather a boiler plant that operates like a wood chip system.

Shaw anticipates that the company will convert more than 76 million pounds of carpet materials into steam and electricity for the site every year. It will generate approximately 3.5 million kilowatt hours per year, which is equivalent to the average annual electrical usage of 300 homes.

Other benefits of system

This is also good news for the environment. About five billion pounds of carpet end up in landfills every year. These projects are helping diminish that number.

“There are two big benefits to the plant: consistent, low fuel cost,” says Zolkowski. “And the second is that we are diverting some material from going to the landfill. Our customers want us to be green, and that avoidance means something to them.”

The two plants will also support Shaw's goal of 10 percent alternative energy sources by 2017.

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