Friday, May 29, 2009

The Carpet Fact-checker Files

Tales from my carpet fact-checkered past -- Or, How many carpet facts would a fact-checker check if a fact-checker could check facts?

Image courtesy of S Group Advertising
In Wednesday’s blogpost [Contrary to Health Magazine, Carpet Won't Make You Sick], I told you about my first experience with a “fact-checker” – a person whose job it is to check out the information writers put in their magazine articles before the publications go to press. Specifically, the fact-checker I dealt with was from Health magazine, which was supposedly publishing an article on “keeping carpets healthy” in the home.

Today, I’m posting a transcript of sorts – the verbatim text of the statements the fact-checker emailed to me, plus the responses I sent back, which included valuable input from CRI Marketing Director James Beach. In the final version of the article, the publication basically ignored our response, and, at the time, I chalked the whole thing up to experience.

But every dog will have its day, and, thanks to the magic of blogging, so will I. Woof.

Fact Checker Statement: Certain carpet materials give off gas volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can cause headaches and respiratory problems for sensitive people.

CRI: Many synthetic materials will off gas – carpet is one of the lowest-emitting products a homeowner can bring into an indoor air space and is the lowest-emitting product of synthetic flooring choices. Choosing the Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label certified carpet assures users that the products they have chosen are emitting the lowest levels of VOCs available. The Green Label certification is recognized by the EPA and the state of California, and has been adopted by those organizations as their standards for low-emitting carpet. It is important to note that all VOCs from carpet are off gassed within 48-72 hours and are 99.9% gone at that time – and gone forever. There are no lingering or long-term VOC discharges from carpet. More on VOCs and carpet.

Fact Checker Statement: The larger and plusher the rug, the harder it is to remove allergens from it.

CRI: Not necessarily. The Carpet and Rug Institute’s Seal of Approval vacuum testing program tests vacuums. The ones that earn the SOA approval remove dirt and hold on to it, without damaging the carpet. So, much depends on your vacuum. It doesn’t matter whether the carpet is low-pile or plush – proper cleaning and maintenance are absolutely critical to refreshing carpet for the consumer. There are CRI Seal of Approval certified products that will effectively clean all types of carpet. Using good, effective products such as those tested in this SOA program ensures that the products really work. There are name–brand products that don’t work very well. CRI’s SOA Program tests cleaning solutions, vacuum cleaners, and deep-cleaning extractors. The vacuum cleaner program tests for efficacy as well as whether or not the particles are contained in the machine. Just picking a vacuum cleaner simply because it has a HEPA filter on it might not be the best advice if that machine doesn’t effectively remove soil from the carpet.

Fact Checker Statement: Low-pile rugs are a better choice because there is less opportunity for the allergens to get stuck in the fibers.

CRI: We have to disagree with the writer’s assumption that having allergens stuck in a carpet’s fibers is a bad thing. Allergens are with us – they will be in an environment no matter what type of flooring is in a room. Studies indicate that carpet acts like a filter, holding allergens out of the breathing space until they can be removed with a vacuum. Trapping allergens should not be viewed or portrayed as a negative attribute. Allergens affect people ONLY when they are breathed into the lungs or come in direct contact with them. If the allergens are being trapped in the fibers, they are unavailable to taken into the lungs. Studies have also shown that fibers act in such a way that they hold them and control them from dermal transfer i.e. putting your hand or face on the carpet. Carpet will transfer a minimal amount via dermal transfer whereas allergens on a hard-surface are not only kicked up into the breathing zone simply through HVAC and regular walking on them, they also provide almost 90 percent dermal transfer. Here is alink to more information about allergens and carpet.

Fact Checker Statement: Rugs made with cotton, sisal, jute, seagrass, and hemp are often woven into thinner carpets which trap fewer allergens.

CRI: You can manufacture synthetic carpet to be as thin as any of these natural fibers. Also, see comments above that dispute the writer’s assertion that trapping allergens is a bad thing. Cotton is not stain-resistant, and these other natural fibers have issues with durability and comfort.

Fact Checker Statement: Wall to wall broadloom carpet is typically made with synthetic fibers, backings and adhesives that release VOCs. This is also known as a “new carpet smell”.

CRI: The phrase, “Wall to wall broadloom” is redundant. Broadloom carpet can be installed in a room wall to wall, or it can be cut and fashioned into area rugs. Wall-to-wall indicates installation style. Broadloom differentiates the carpet from carpet tile, or 6-foot carpet manufactured for cars, trailers, boats, etc. So just say, “Broadloom carpet is differentiated…”

Fact Checker Statement: Wall to wall carpet made with natural fibers like wool or synthetic products that have earned the Green Label or Green Label Plus from the Carpet and Rug Institute ensure that rugs have low VOC-emissions.

This is a true statement.

Fact Checker Statement: Most carpets get rid of harmful VOCs within several weeks. Crack open a window, or if it’s a new area rug, store it in the garage or basement until the odor is gone.

CRI: See above statement. VOC’s are present from 48-72 hours and then are gone and gone forever. I question the use of the word, “harmful”. Irritating to sensitive people, yes, but harmful?

Fact Checker Statement: Professional carpet cleaning agents are now nontoxic.

CRI: This is true, but I question the use of the word “now”. What evidence does the writer have that they were ever toxic? I am not aware of past toxic substances used to shampoo carpet.

Fact Checker Statement: Thorough cleaning helps control allergen levels. Vacuum at least once a week with a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaner.

CRI: Check the CRI’s list of Seal of Approval vacuums – hepa filters are good, but they need to hold on to the dirt and not shoot it out with the exhaust, and they should not damage the carpet. These factors are what the SOA program tests for. More on CRI’s vacuum testing.

Fact Checker Statement: Area rugs should be flipped over and vacuumed on the back and the front.

CRI: Never heard of it, but what could it hurt? Sounds like a lot of work, though.

Fact Checker Statement: Professionally clean wall to wall and area carpeting once a year.

CRI: Consider using a SOA Service Provider certified by CRI to use safe and effective cleaning solutions and equipment.


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Contrary To Health Magazine Headline, Carpet Won't Make You Sick

Could a Magazine Headline Make You Sick? This one - "Could your rug make you sick?" - did it for me.

I love my job here at the Carpet and Rug Institute [CRI], but I admit I sometimes get discouraged by what I sense is the growing public sentiment – manipulated by a scandal-hungry press - that carpet is not a healthy floor covering. It doesn’t seem to register with many of the writers and editors I speak to from outside of the carpet industry that, for more than fifty years, people have lived quite happily with their wall-to-wall carpet. It just seems that lately everything you read either subtly implies or blatantly states that carpet is bad. And many publications seem to be hell-bent on negativity even in the face of factual information about the benefits of carpet.

A case in point:

Not long after I came to work at CRI, I was contacted by a freelance writer named Beth Roehrig who said she was working on an article for Health magazine on “keeping carpets healthy” in the home. Excited by the possibility of exposure in a national publication, I arranged for the writer to interview CRI’s president, Werner Braun, who spoke with her for about 20 minutes. Werner covered a number of topics – thoroughly, as always - including carpet’s emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), the development of CRI’s Green Label and Green Label Plus Indoor Air Quality testing program , and CRI’s Seal of Approval testing and certification program for cleaning solutions, vacuums, extractors, etc.

I sent the writer a hefty packet of information by FedEx priority overnight – we aim to please here at CRI. I didn’t want to overload the writer with facts and research studies, but I know from my own writing experience that sifting through too much information is far preferable to making do with too little, especially when writing about an unfamiliar subject. In all, Ms. Roehrig and I emailed back and forth about 15 times during the article development process.

Before the article was published, I received a series of questions from a “fact-checker” at the magazine. This was my first experience with a fact-checker, so I took extra time with my responses to the statements that were submitted for me to approve or disapprove as “facts.” James Beach, CRI’s director of market issues weighed in with his own thoughtful input. Several of the statements from the article espoused opinions that, to say the least, ran counter to what CRI’s research shows us to be the facts about carpet. Still, I gave my responses and hoped for the best.

When the time came, I purchased two copies of the March issue of Health at a store near my office. I sat in my car out in the store’s parking lot and started flipping pages. I found the one-page article I was looking for sandwiched between two ads for diet aids under the headline, COULD YOUR RUG MAKE YOU SICK? In short, the article talked about how carpet harbors allergens and emits VOCs, “which can cause headaches and respiratory problems in susceptible people”. It gave advice about what people should do if they “end up with a floor covering that reeks.” But the worst part was the headline. No amount of balanced information could undo the damage done by those six words (In her defense, the author did not write the headline).

For me, this article was a rude welcome into the world of media relations, but one that prepared me quickly for what I have come to expect on a daily basis. I have learned that the secret (and the challenge) to my success is remembering that each new press contact is a new chance to spread the good news about carpet. I will continue to provide the press and public with credible information, and I won’t forget to celebrate the times when people are willing to listen.

But what is the truth about carpet and indoor air quality, asthma and allergies? I could try and answer, but I think it’s better if I leave that to an expert. In his article, Carpet, Asthma, and Allergies, Myth or Reality, author and toxicology expert Mitchell Sauerhoff, Ph. D., DABT, reviewed more than 23 U.S. and international studies based on research performed over a period of 19 years and concluded that,

“The long-held beliefs on carpet’s alleged negative characteristics are not consistent with current research. Carpet emits VOCs for very short durations and at very low levels. Levels of VOCs from carpet have a very low probability of acting as asthma triggers. While carpet may have a higher burden of biocontaminants, airborne levels of these biocontaminants are similar or lower than over hard flooring surfaces according to most studies. Carpet appears to trap or sequester biocontaminants, taking them out of the atmosphere…Indeed, the significant literature on carpet and asthma or allergies confirms that children and adults living with carpet do not have an increased incidence of asthma or allergy.”

“Based on the available science, carpet does not cause asthma or allergies and does not increase the incidence or severity of asthma or allergies symptoms. In fact …multiple studies have reported fewer allergy and asthma symptoms associated with carpet.”

Mitchell Sauerhoff, Ph.D., DABT

Here’s to your Health...


Related posts:
+ NFT: Scientific Facts Dispel Carpet & Asthma Myths
+ CRI Survey of Asthma & Allergy Doctors

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mucking About at Connections

Or, four days of good, clean fun with the cleaning industry...

[CRI's booth at Connections.]
Last week, I attended the Connections Technical Conference and Exhibition in Clearwater, Florida. Connections is primarily for practitioners and business owners in the cleaning, and restoration and recovery industries. To be in the cleaning business means your company services homes and/or businesses with carpet and upholstery cleaning, and perhaps janitorial services. Restoration and recovery generally involve extensive cleaning following some sort of natural or man-made disaster such as a fire or flood.

Connections is run by a consortium of 13 separate regional cleaning organizations. It was hard for a newcomer like me to keep track of all of the different groups, but it was easy to see that everyone at Connections had a vested interest in taking care of their customers, often during difficult situations and stressful times.

CRI's Werner Braun addressing the Connections audience.
CRI was one of the sponsors for this spring’s Connections program. Many of the attendees were CRI Seal of Approval Service Providers who use Seal of Approval cleaning solutions, systems, and/or extractors in their businesses.

CRI’s Seal of Approval program was the first to test and certify cleaning products and equipment to make sure they work without damaging the carpet. On the first day of the show, CRI technical manager and SOA coordinator Pat Jennings and I set up the CRI booth in the exhibit hall, along with many of the other sponsors and exhibitors – mostly manufacturers and distributors of cleaning products and equipment but there were also web developers, business management consultants, and investment counselors, among others. On display were enormous air-mover fans used to dry facilities after water damage, and huge truck-mounted carpet cleaning systems. I liked the thermal detection cameras that can “see” moisture that may be hidden beneath the surface of a structure, undetectable to the naked eye.

The traffic at the show was brisk, to say the least. For three days, Pat and I answered a steady stream of questions about CRI Seal of Approval products and equipment, and the SOA Service Provider program. We gave away hundreds of CRI’s Carpet Cleaning Tips for Dummies booklets, and the general consensus was that the CRI giveaway pen was best in show.

The Carpet and Rug Institute used the Connections meeting to announce some significant changes to the Seal of Approval Service Provider program. CRI president Werner Braun spoke to the group about the current state of the carpet industry, projections for future recovery, and issues facing CRI. Specifically, enhancements to the SOA Service Provider program were announced. The new SOA Service Provider Plus program includes a new code of conduct, and, for the first time, includes language “strongly recommending” that SOA Service Providers receive certification from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, or IICRC.

[Bethany and Pat Jennings.]
In spite of the daily thunderstorms, I managed to squeeze in a walk or two on the beautiful Clearwater beach, which made me happy.

The people I met at Connections were friendly, everyone seemed enthusiastic about being together, learning how to ply their trades and market their businesses better. And what more appropriate place to hold a convention for the cleaning industry than a town named Clearwater?

Maybe Hygiene, Colorado?

~ Bethany

Note: Photos courtesy of Clifford Grost.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trace Levels of PFOA and Carpet, No More!

A lot has been written and said in various media outlets over the last several years regarding the trace amounts of Perfluoroactanoic Acid (PFOA) which have been found in some products, including in some instances carpet.

Some of the stories have been well-balanced with factual information, while others have been less than forthcoming with all the facts, leaving the consumer with a lot of scientific garble to try to wade through without presenting much of an overall picture.

The reason I wanted to talk specifics about PFOA today stems from the fact that the chemistry used in providing stain-blocking and resistance properties in carpet today no longer presents the unintended by-product of PFOA in it. A Carpet and Rug Institute survey confirmed that as of January 2009, the carpet industry in the U.S. had ceased using the C-8 chemistry that produced the unintended traces of PFOA found in carpet treatments.

Of course, there is more to the story than just that, so let me start from the beginning.

PFOA is not, and has never been, an ingredient used to make carpet. It was an unintended reaction byproduct present at trace levels in some carpets. Levels that were so minute that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has said there “is no reason for consumers to stop using any consumer or industrial related products because of concerns about PFOA.”

When CRI found out that the carpet industry was out of the C-8 chemistry, we didn’t make a big news splash out of it. It was our reasoning that even when the industry did utilize the process that produced these very small traces of PFOA, based on all the information available, there was never any health or safety risk. The fact that the industry moved away from the C-8 process is directly attributable to a voluntary stewardship program with those companies that manufacture PFOA. As the industry move away from the C-8 chemistry illustrates, this program has been very successful.

Of course, this is and has been the mantra of the carpet industry for most of the last two decades. When it comes to an environmental issue, the carpet industry is, has, and will continue to do the right thing. In this case, the right thing to do was to find a process that eliminated any of the controversy, despite the fact every piece of scientific evidence and data showed there was never any health or safety issue involved with the product.

Here is a link to's 5/18/2009 program featuring John Pruitt on the subject of Tainted Water and PFOAs. He interviews CRI's Werner Braun on the subject.

We are confident the EPA and other regulatory agencies will continue to monitor developments and ensure consumer product safety. We expect that CRI and the industry will cooperate with them, as always, regarding any issues related to this industry.

~ James

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

The CARE Conference '09 in Pictures

As you know from Georgina Sikorski on CARE-ing for the Environment and CARE 2009 Annual Conference & Carpet Recycling, I attended the CARE 2009 Annual Conference. I also took pictures that I share with you.

These relate to the Awards programs and the winners in this year’s CARE awards.

Here on the left is the CARE Person of the Year Award - a magnificent piece to honor outstanding contributions.

CARE's Person of the Year for 2009 is Brendan McSheehy.

You see him below holding the Award.

From the press release, I extracted the following. It gives you a sense of Brendan's accomplishments:

"For his exemplary leadership on the CARE Board, serving as chairman of various CARE committees, Brendan McSheehy, Jr., was named CARE Person of the Year. As director of research and development for Universal Fiber Systems, Mr. McSheehy has been actively involved in carpet fiber research and recycling since 1993. A patent-holder for a method of cleaning and separating post-consumer carpet face yarn, Mr. McSheehy was instrumental in the development of his company's ReFresh Fiber, which contains post-consumer content from recycled nylon Type 6,6 carpet."

Supporting CARE...

As a Green Partner: Howard Elder [on the left with CRI's Frank Hurd] accepts J&J Industry's globe for their continued support of CARE as a Green Partner.

As a Sustainable Leadership Partner: Eric Nelson [on the right with Frank Hurd] accepts InterfaceFlor's globe for their support as a Sustainable Leadership Partner.

The EPA/CARE Innovations in Carpet Recycling Award

From the press release: "Established just two years ago, the EPA/CARE award recognizes innovation in a product containing post-consumer carpet content, or a process that diverts substantial amounts of post-consumer carpet from landfills. This year the award is shared by Shaw Industries' Evergreen Nylon Recycling facility and Los Angeles Fiber Company and its president Ronald Greitzer."

In this photo, Shaw accepts the EPA/CARE Innovations in Carpet Recycling Award – Steven Jones (Left) Bea Brahmbhatt, Joe Bill Faith, Rick Ramirez, Russ DeLozier, John Conyers, Frank Hurd (CRI) and John Cross (EPA)

Some information about Shaw's Evergreen plant from the press release: "From the time Shaw began operating the Evergreen plant in 2007, the company has recycled more than 220 million pounds of post-consumer Nylon 6 carpet and more than 36 million pounds of post-consumer carpet filler. In addition, significant fossil fuel usage was avoided through the plant's waste-to-energy processing."

The other recipient was Ron Greitzer from Los Angeles Fiber pictured here with the EPA/CARE Innovations in Carpet Recycling Award – John Cross, EPA (Left), Ron Greitzer, Los Angeles Fiber and Frank Hurd, CRI.

Some background from the press release: "A visionary and unselfish leader, Ron Greitzer has over a decade of involvement in carpet recycling. Since 2000, his Los Angeles Fiber Company has recycled more than 464 million pounds of post-consumer carpet, amounting to more than 40% of the accumulated poundage of recycled carpet reported by CARE since it began collecting data in 2002. Clearly, without Mr. Greitzer's efforts, CARE would not have reached their 2007 milestone of one billion pounds of post-consumer carpet recovered. Greitzer's Reliance Carpet Cushion products are made entirely of post-consumer carpet fiber, and represent a major potential market for post-consumer fiber."

The Recycler of the Year Award

Pictured here are Jenny Cross and Frank Endrenyi, from Mohawk, with the Recycler of the Year Award.

From the press release: "As the organization's Recycler of the Year, CARE recognized Mohawk Industries for its GreenWorks Post-Consumer Recycling Center, which converts post-consumer carpet into engineered resins that can be used in a broad range of valuable post-consumer products. Mohawk describes its GreenWorks system as a "total recycling solution in which NO carpet component is either discarded to landfills or is sent to waste incineration." In 2008, the GreenWorks Center, located in Chatsworth, Georgia, collected 15 million pounds of post-consumer carpet for processing into thermoplastic nylons and other materials. Most engineered resin sales were with Nylon 6,6, but Mohawk also developed automotive, furniture, and housewares applications, among others."

These are some of the people and organizations who have put a great deal of work into CARE and carpet, sustainability, recycling and the environment.

~ Bethany

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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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Thursday, May 7, 2009

CRI's Seal of Approval (SOA) Program

The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) has a proud and successful history of helping consumers deal with carpet mishaps. You know, the kind where the result winds up emblazoned on the brand new living room carpet -- as in pet stains or children’s spills and tracked-in soil or dinner accidents -- often serving as a signature reminder especially when such nasty stains aren't thoroughly and effectively cleaned. You see, we understand not only the investment put into a carpet, but also the ramifications of a carpet that “uglies out’’ long before its time is due. That's where the Seal of Approval Program comes into play.

Back in 2000, CRI put together a remarkable program which came to be known as The Green Label Vacuum Testing program to help consumers identify those vacuums which were best suited to keep carpet surfaces as clean as possible – without putting dust back into the air.

The program identifies vacuum cleaners that remove soil, contain dust within the filtration bag and the machine itself, and leave the carpet damage free as well as looking good.

That program has since transitioned into our Seal of Approval (SAO) family which includes a suite of testing protocols that assure consumers they are getting the best available products to maintain their carpets.

The SOA program includes tests for carpet spot removers, in-tank and pre-spray cleaning products as well as extractors and cleaning systems. And the cherry on top, is the list of SOA professional service providers who agree to use only SOA products in their work, thus giving consumers a much better chance of being satisfied with their carpet cleaning experience.

Now, one might wonder why such a program would concern the carpet industry to the point it would invest heavily into such a program. The answer is relatively simple: when carpet “uglies out” and that signature stain stays around throughout the life of the carpet, it isn’t the cleaning chemicals shouldering the blame, but rather the carpet itself. And, of course, we all know carpet cleaning products are not all created equal.

In fact, the litmus test which proved we were heading down the right path occurred during some early testing data of cleaning products purchased off the shelf.

That's right. A majority of the products CRI tested came back not only ineffective, but most of them actually did not clean as well as water. And some even showed a propensity to hurry up the carpet’s demise by promoting re-soiling. Some chemicals left behind on the carpet can either strip the carpet of some of its stain resistant properties or even worse become a magnet for soil resulting in those mystery stains that come back in a manner of days.

One of the precursors to entering into the SOA foray were several surveys CRI put together to gauge the attitudes of consumers toward carpet. We surveyed residential consumers, government specifiers, architects and designers, as well as facility mangers across several market segments. The one thing we found most puzzling was that the number one problem these folks had with their carpet purchases all had to do with cleaning and maintaining them.

Carpet is made today to be more stain and soil resistant than ever before. Once we started testing carpet cleaning products and found out how bad some of them really were, we knew that certifying good carpet cleaning products was the right thing to do.

And it's knowledge that we all benefit from: the carpet industry, carpet consumers, and carpet cleaning chemical manufacturers as well. In fact, when we brought carpet cleaning manufacturers together and introduced this new testing program, we heard a general consensus that it was a good program and would go a long way in making their products and services better. It would also give them a way to distinguish themselves in the marketplace as using only superior carpet cleaning products that had passed SOA tests.

The carpet industry enthusiastically supports the program - several carpet mills have even tied their warranties to the use of SOA products. And that makes sense. The car industry doesn’t sell you a car, and then tell you not maintain it or change the oil because their warranty will take care of it.

Once cleaning chemicals were introduced to the SOA program it was only a matter of time before we started testing deep cleaning extractors and systems. The one key difference in the extractor testing is the ability to measure soil removal as well water retrieval. In today’s fast-paced world, people can’t expect to sit around for a day while carpet dries. And too much water left in a carpet can lead to mold and/or mildew problems.

Our good friends at NASA helped us by providing a technology called x-ray fluorescence (XRF), a sophisticated testing method that measures the precise amount of soil removed from carpet. XRF was developed by private industry and enhanced by NASA for the Space Shuttle program and can measure how much soil is removed from a carpet down the fourth decimal point. [Read the CRI Fact Sheet describing How Space Technology Was Adapted for Carpet Cleaning."

Since we launched the SOA program in 2004, we have made believers of a lot of people and several states specify the use of SOA products in their purchasing agreements. We plan to continue spreading the word that only the very best products pass our SOA tests, thereby ensuring that your carpet purchase and ensuing carpet cleaning program are the best experience possible.

~ James

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

CARE 2009 Annual Conference & Carpet Recycling

I did something new last week. I attended the annual conference of the Carpet America Recovery Effort, a group otherwise known as CARE that is dedicated to recycling carpet, diverting used carpet from landfills, and finding markets for products made from recycled carpet.

The first thing I learned is that carpet recyclers are, as far as I can tell, very nice people. Friendly and outgoing, each carpet recycler I met struck me as a combination of entrepreneur, mad scientist, and roustabout. Each seemed set on living his or her own real-life “rags-to-riches” story in every sense of the word.

I learned that recycling carpet is not easy. It requires someone with the stomach for getting their hands dirty and working under tight schedules. For example, during big Manhattan office building renovations, Sean Ragiel’s company CarpetCycle, goes in at night before any of the other work crews, so they can get the carpet out clean. The office has to be back up and running by start of business Monday, so Sean has to have crews willing to work round the clock on weekends.

Carpet recycling requires significant investments in machinery, storage space, and transportation. Separating the various components in carpet – the fiber, backing, adhesive, etc. - calls for sophisticated technologies. Profits are squeezed by localities’ tipping fees on one side and the price of oil on the other. And to top it off, when carpet styles change and carpet manufacturers put a new fiber type out on the market, recyclers have to adapt quickly to find new product outlets and new ways to extract value from the process. There aren’t any easy answers.

But there are promising developments. And reasons to celebrate.

First, CARE has a new executive director, Georgina Sikorski, whose qualifications are impressive, to say the least. Second, the CARE Annual report showed that, while recycling and diversion declined in the past year, these activities are still robust, particularly when compared to the downturn in the economy overall.

An excellent group of individuals and companies was recognized as winners in this year’s CARE awards. Mohawk Industries was named Recycler of the Year for their GreenWorks Post-Consumer Recycling Center. For his exemplary leadership on the CARE Board, Brendan McSheehy, Jr., of Universal Fiber Systems was named CARE Person of the Year.

In just its second year, the EPA/CARE Innovations in Carpet Recycling Award recognizes innovation in a product containing post-consumer carpet content or a process that diverts substantial amounts of post-consumer carpet from landfills. This year, the award was shared by Shaw Industries' Evergreen Nylon Recycling facility, and Los Angeles Fiber Company and its president Ronald Greitzer. LA Fibers is marketing a new felted carpet underlayment made of 100% recycled post-consumer carpet.

Several presentations focused on new and innovative end-uses for post-consumer carpet. KeLa Energy’s biomass fuel combines coal dust with recycled carpet to produce a fuel that burns hotter and more efficiently than coal. Kela Energy is going online this summer with a plant located in Eastern Kentucky.

Ron Simonetti spoke about his company, Modular Carpet Recycling, that has developed a small, regionally-based carpet processing center that can separate carpet into its component parts in a clean, efficient process. A pilot plant is currently operational, and future plans are to expand nationally.

Polar Energy has two plants in operation producing fillers for carpet backings using material recovered from recycled carpet. Their C2C Fillers come from the backing, rather than the face fiber of the carpet, and are immediately adaptable for use by carpet manufacturers.

I had a good time at the CARE conference, and I learned just enough to know that I have a lot more to learn about carpet recycling. But without a doubt, the efforts going towards the responsible disposal or reuse of post-consumer carpet are impressive. It’s all part of carpet’s capacity for sustainability, that, with a lot of work from the people behind CARE, will continue to grow.

~ Bethany

Also read CARE: Carpet America Recovery Effort.

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