Kasey Kruse and CARE Board Chairman Frank Hurd.*
Recycling is Beautiful – Meet Kasey Kruse, The New Face of Environmental Leadership.
Kasey Kruse is the president of Indianapolis-based Kruse Carpet Recycling, a company founded in 1997 by her father, Indianapolis businessman Richard D. Kruse. In 2008, KCR processed 21 million pounds of post-consumer carpet, providing feedstock to fiber recycling facilities and other industrial uses. That’s 21 million pounds of used carpet put to good use, instead of taking up space in a landfill. Kasey represents a new breed of American entrepreneur: small business owners who deal in market-based solutions for the environment.
I met Kasey two months ago, at the annual meeting of the Carpet America Recovery Effort, or CARE for short. CARE is a voluntary organization whose mission is to promote the recycling and diversion of post-consumer carpet away from landfills and into viable products for business and industry.
Before I arrived at the CARE conference, if you had asked me what the president of a carpet recycling company would look like I wouldn’t have conjured up an image of Kasey Kruse. Tall and athletic, Kasey’s ready smile and open personality mark her as the Hoosier she is. The fact that she is passionate about her business is very evident in the video she helped produce with an Indianapolis marketing company.
Watch the 3-minute Kruse Carpet Recycling Informational video on YouTube.
Kasey agreed to talk to me about her company and her experiences in carpet recycling.
Kasey, how did you find your way into the carpet recycling business?
In 2005, I moved from Chicago back to my hometown of Indianapolis. I was thinking about what I wanted to do next when I started working with some of my father’s companies. I took a particular interest in a little section of his hauling company that involved carpet incineration. It interested me enough that I did some research on carpet recycling – this was right before Shaw opened their Evergreen carpet reclamation and recycling facility.
That June, my father and I went to the Neocon show in Chicago. We ran into Frank Hurd and Bob Peoples who were at that time the board chairman and executive director, respectively, from CARE. We got a lot of good information from those two, and decided the time was right to get involved. From that point, we started the process of growing the carpet recycling business to where we are today.
How does being a female affect your experience in this industry?
When I first started there were very few women involved in carpet recycling. At the first CARE Conference I attended, I remember I was one of only three women there, and definitely the only female collector. There are lots of women involved now, in many different capacities – including collectors. It’s nice to have the camaraderie.
More than being a female, I think my age has affected my experience in this industry - especially when I first started. But I can say without hesitation that everyone I have been privileged to work with has been very accepting of me, and helpful as I found my place in the carpet recycling business.
What is exciting about carpet recycling that you want shoppers looking for carpet today to understand?
Right now nylon, specifically nylon 6, is the most recyclable type of carpet on the market, so I guess I would encourage them to buy that type, if possible.
There are multiple products on the market that include post-consumer recycled content. I am especially excited about carpet styles that are made with material derived from post-consumer carpet. If we can recycle carpet into material that can be used to make new carpet, then we have products that never have to be thrown away. They can potentially just continue to be recycled over and over again.
What challenges affect the success of your business or carpet recycling in general?
Right now the biggest challenge for both my company and the carpet recycling industry overall is identifying viable markets for our feedstock – processed post-consumer recycled carpet. When the price of virgin materials is low, it affects the market’s demand for post-consumer recycled material as a cost-efficient option.
Also, carpet recycling is a young industry, and we don’t have an extensive history of market exposure as a business model and potential source for say, representatives from the plastics industry. Because we are new and our materials are available in a slightly unique form, it is easier for us to be overlooked by potential customers. The need for exposure – getting the word out – is one of the best arguments for an organization like CARE.
Any great war stories? Ever found anything unusual hidden in a load of incoming carpet?
We used to say we’ve seen everything in our loads but the kitchen sink, but in fact, we received a load the other day that had a kitchen sink in it. It’s a dirty job, but our environment really benefits when somebody does it – so, why not me?
Thank you, Kasey!
*Note: In the photo above, Kasey Kruse accepts a sponsorship plaque from CARE Board Chairman Frank Hurd. Kruse Recycling was also named CARE's 2008 Recycler of the Year.
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