Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Georgina Sikorski on CARE-ing for the Environment

Georgina Sikorski took over leadership of the Carpet America Recovery Effort, otherwise known as CARE, earlier this month. Already a board member and actively involved with the carpet recycling group, she agreed to become the organization’s second executive director in its seven-year history, and the first woman to hold the job.

Georgina is a distinguished business-to-business marketing professional who specializes in developing strategic business solutions for a wide range of businesses and associations, especially on the subject of environmental and sustainable business practices. She has worked for DuPont, Ralston Purina, and was most recently the Marketing Director and Commercial Brand and Marketing Communications Director for INVISTA, where she held responsibility for Antron® carpet fiber, the most specified carpet fiber in the commercial interiors market.

I attended CARE’s Annual meeting at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, Virginia, and had the opportunity to watch Georgina head the proceedings for the first time. She agreed to answer some questions about the meeting and the path she sees ahead for U.S. carpet recycling.

What were the highlights from this year’s meeting?

Highlights? There were several. I think number one was the level of networking and interaction that took place throughout the two days - people were talking to each other about how to move forward on new projects - it was electric.

Attendance was down a little bit from the 2007 meeting, but we still had an excellent group of attendees, representing entrepreneurs in carpet collection, new product and technology representatives, equipment suppliers, plastics industry experts, carpet manufacturers, federal and state government representatives, and media. Everybody was full of energy and enthusiasm, and it was great to be a part of that spirit.

On the first day, Kevin Swift with the American Chemistry Council did a great presentation on the economy that really put the market in perspective and set us on the right track.

Bob Pilotti, with ECM Plastics moderated a session about collection and processing opportunities that was specifically designed to address the carpet collectors in the audience.

Paul Ashman, a pioneer in carpet collection and a founder of Boston’s Environmental Recovery and Collection made a wonderful presentation called “Lessons Learned” that had invaluable advice for anyone involved in carpet collection, and especially for those attendees thinking about venturing into the business.

Shaw Industries’ Russ DeLozier presented an overview of collection models, reinforcing that there is no single model that will work for all collectors, and that it is up to each businessperson to decide which model will work in their market.

Eric Nelson of Interface Americas offered information on 'clean separation technology'. Mohawk Industries’ Frank Endrenyi shared insights on working with the plastics industry. Ron Greitzer of Los Angeles Fibers talked about manufacturing and marketing Reliance Carpet Cushion, his company’s commercially successful PCC-content product. Sean Ragiel, president of CarpetCycle, did a great job describing how he has diversified his business model to increase his bottom line.

Kate Chappell came all the way from Manchester, England to give her presentation on how carpet recycling is beginning to grow in the UK. It was thrilling, and a real honor to hear Kate’s presentation on her organization, Carpet Recycling, UK . The English carpet recycling market shares many similarities with the U.S., but there are some stark differences. For example, a majority of the carpet in the UK is made of an 80:20 wool blend that offers its own blend of recycling challenges. I really look forward to strengthening the bond between CARE and the UK organization, as we work towards our common goals globally.

Were there any significant developments?

Attendees told me that they especially enjoyed hearing about Grants programs available at the state level and ad procurement programs that they might be able to take advantage of. New opportunities for incorporating post-consumer carpet (PCC) into new products and technologies - there were presentations on using PCC to make engineered fuel, a new process for recapturing nylon from old carpet, and a way to recover and reuse the filler from the carpet’s backing.

Work on recycling carpet fiber into resins that can be used by the plastics industry is starting to show good progress. There was a world class panel on hand to discuss this new development - Bob Pilotti from ECM Plastics; Dennis Hayford from the Polymers Center for Excellence; Dean Eberhardt from MRC Polymers; and Butch Crawford, from Wellman.

Why do you want to lead this organization?

I am committed to CARE’s mission of diverting carpet from landfills and finding profitable uses for PCC in a wide range of product applications. I believe that when we are successful in this endeavor, we will create more green jobs and increase consumer choices. Ultimately, we will have a positive impact on the environment, by re-using materials and reducing our impact on scarce and valuable natural resources.

…and I cannot say enough about what a privilege it is to work with such a dedicated group - the people of CARE are world-class.

What should the world should be aware of?

We all need to keep in mind that everyone can make a difference. Environmental sustainability requires innovation, personal investment, and dedication to hard work. In the end, the business opportunities are limitless – why not have successful businesses that make a sustainable difference?

What questions should consumers be asking?

Consumers should ask their retailers if the products they are purchasing are made sustainably. Consumers should ask how producers take end-of-life responsibility for what they produce. And, consumers should ask their government representatives for details on the programs in place to reclaim, recycle, and re-use products.

What are the biggest challenges to you and CARE?

By far the biggest challenge is to stay focused and making progress on the one or two priorities that will make the biggest sustainable impact long-term.

Thank you, Georgina!

Are there any other questions you'd like to ask Georgina?

~ Bethany

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Ecofasa turns waste to biodiesel using bacteria

A group of Spanish developers working for a company called Ecofasa just announced a new biofuel made up from trash. This isn't a biodiesel made from used frying oil; instead, it's made from general urban waste which is treated by bacteria. The result of that bacteria? Fatty acids that can be used to produce standard biodiesel. According to the company's CEO, the process is fully biologic, competes with no feedstock and is really sustainable. However, the process doesn't yield that much actual fuel: just one liter of biodiesel from 10 kg of trash. The project is now in a development phase, but Ecofasa said that a commercially viable model could be ready in three to four years.



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