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Plant Profile L A Fiber Waste Not Want Not

L.A. Fiber Co. and Reliance Carpet Cushion recycle and reprocess waste carpet in a combined, economically viable operation.

L.A. Fiber Co. and Reliance Carpet Cushion recycle and reprocess waste carpet in a combined, economically viable operation.
Throughout the United States, there are several companies, both start-up and mature, trying to provide a viable solution to the 4.7 billion pounds of waste carpet that goes to landfills every year. According to industry sources, in far too many cases the environmental model has not been balanced with an economic model, and the business experiences a short-lived mission. The economic portion tends to fall apart for two primary reasons: scaleability because the amount of reprocessing is limited; or markets and outlets that hinder the ability to sell reprocessed waste.Today, there is one entrepreneurial business that has the vision to capture both the environmental side of the equation and the economic side. Los Angeles-based Los Angeles Fiber Co. (L.A. Fiber), the recycling side of the business, and Reliance Carpet Cushion, producer of man-made underlay pads, are the only facilities, according to the owners, that produce a product made from 100-percent post-consumer carpet.Over the past two decades, L.A. Fiber has continuously refined its processing techniques, resulting in the capability to reprocess post-consumer carpet. Additionally, L.A. Fiber has developed sorting and segmenting processes to effectively utilize 95 percent of the total waste carpet delivered to its site. According to the company, its current recycling capacity is almost 100 million pounds annually. L.A. Fibers/Reliance plants are situated in three locations, which occupy approximately 300,000 square feet dedicated to manufacturing and related facilities, with 30 docks and more than 200,000 square feet of yard space.Reliance Carpet Cushion receives reprocessed fiber from L.A. Fiber. The fiber is processed through various production lines to manufacture carpet cushion for both the residential and commercial carpet markets. Reliance has multiple stock-keeping units for specific consumer needs.These combined operations are among the few that have the ability to significantly divert carpet from landfills, process the post-consumer waste, and have multiple output channels, resulting in a viable economic model.Considering that post-consumer waste is delivered to the recycling plant free of charge, the firm benefits from low raw-material costs. West Coast carpet dealers and installers are only too enthusiastic to take their waste stream to L.A. Fiber because it saves the disposal costs associated with waste carpet. L.A. Fiber and Reliance represent one of the nations best-demonstrated sustainable practices with a viable business model. Following is a quick Q&A with co-owner Ronald J. Greitzer.
L.A. Fibers main market for its processed 100-percent post-consumer carpet waste is the carpet cushion industry.TW: How long has the business been in operationGreitzer: Reliance Upholstery Supply Co. was established in 1932 for the purpose of supplying the bedding and home furnishing industries with soft filling materials. Over the years, Reliance manufactured foam, polyester fiber, cotton batting and mattress pads. In the late 1960s, the company began recycling its waste into rebond carpet cushion and man-made underlay pads.Los Angeles Fiber was established in 1983 for the purpose of recycling textile waste into shoddy fiber. Shoddy means undetermined fiber, not shoddy workmanship. The fibers are used to manufacture man-made underlay pads, mattress pads, automotive pads, decorative pillows and punching bags.TW: How did you get into recycling carpet wasteGreitzer: L.A. Fiber and Reliance began recycling post-consumer carpet in 2000. After the federal government passed the North American Free Trade Act, the California government passed two minimum-wage increases, and the utilities and worker compensation costs increased dramatically. These factors resulted in the mass exodus of the second-largest garment district in the United States. More than 80 percent of textile manufacturing relocated to Mexico or China. Without apparel waste, L.A. Fiber needed to find an abundant source of fiber. The company modified its equipment to process post-consumer carpet.TW: What differentiates your operation from other carpet and textile recyclersGreitzer: L.A. Fiber/Reliance are the only companies that can produce a finished man-made carpet cushion made from 100-percent post-consumer carpet. The company collects the raw materials, sorts the waste by material type (nylon 6, nylon 6,6, polypropylene, polyester), removes most of the calcium carbonate and latex backing, opens the tufts into fibers, and needles the fibers into a man-made underlay pad.TW: Does California have specific environmental laws that have proven beneficial to your businessGreitzer: California supports the recycling industries in three ways: the state offers low-interest loans through the California Integrated Waste Management Board; the Department of Government Services requires all replacement carpet installations to recycle the waste carpet; and the government is considering mandating a minimum of 10-percent post-consumer content in all materials purchased by its agencies.
L.A. Fiber receives waste carpet from dealers, carpet installers and transfer stations, which it then recycles into 65 different products at its facilities in the Los Angeles area.TW: What do you do with processed waste carpetGreitzer: We have two markets for processed carpet waste. One is in the carpet cushion industry. The other is in the plastics industry injection-molded products. TW: How do you interface with the floor covering industryGreitzer: The carpet industry Carpet America Recycling Effort has recognized L.A. Fiber as the Recycler of the Year. Currently, we are the largest recycler of post-consumer carpet in North America. We work closely with the Carpet and Rug Institute, the major carpet mills and government industries promoting the usage of products made from post-consumer carpet content.TW: What are your sources for waste carpet, and why do they use L.A. FiberGreitzer: We receive waste carpet from carpet dealers, carpet installers and transfer stations. In all three cases, waste carpet is diverted from the landfills to our location in Southern California because we offer suppliers the savings of the disposal cost. Additionally, many of our vendors are promoting the advantages of recycling the waste carpet in order to create additional market share.TW: Your company produces carpet cushion with the waste. What is your geographic coverage from a sales perspectiveGreitzer: Our traditional sales territory is the eleven Western states.TW: What is your competitive advantage in this marketGreitzer: We have an unlimited supply of fiber in order to meet the demands of our customers. We have 65 different types of man-made products to meet our customers specific requirements, and we can ship immediately. But most importantly, we offer to our vendors and customers a program that can help them gain market share.

December 2003



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