Recycled Carpets and Energy From Trash: Shaw Industries Releases First Sustainability Report

Recycled Carpets and Energy From Trash: Shaw Industries Releases First Sustainability Report

Last year, flooring company Shaw Industries set a list of goals for reducing its water, energy and waste. But those weren't simply starting points for the company. Those goals build on actions that the company has already been taking, and which Shaw recaps in a new report.

Shaw recently published Sustain: Strength Amidst Change, the company's first sustainability report, which mostly covers the company's achievements and goals from 2008.

Last year the company created its Growth and Sustainability Council to advance sustainability within the company, and identified five areas to focus on: “materials recovery and stewardship, a Shaw family of eco products, a competitive and sustainable energy strategy, environmental health and safety excellence, and corporate social responsibility.”

The company also set a number of goals last year. The company plans to reduce energy intensity by 25 percent by 2017 (compared to 2007), reduce water intensity by 25 percent by 2010 and by 40 percent by 2016 (compared to 2006), and reduce post-industrial waste to landfill by 25 percent by the end of 2009, by 50 percent by the end of 2010 and by 90 percent by the end of 2011 (compared to 2008).

On the water front, Shaw has already cut the water consumption at its carpet plants by 45 percent between 1999 and 2007. And when it comes to reusing waste, Shaw is well on its way to meeting its goals.

One of the company's manufacturing facilities in Georgia gets power from waste made by carpet, wood and laminate manufacturing. The waste-to-energy process used about 9.5 million pounds of carpet and 12 million pounds of wood waste (which would have otherwise gone to landfills) in 2008, saving Shaw about $623,000 in energy costs.

A Shaw plant in Alabama receives some energy in a different way. The plant collects used cooking oil from associates, community members and restaurants - last year it gathered 3,000 gallons - and converts it to biodiesel for use in its boilers.

Shaw also puts as much thought into the sustainability of its products as it puts into its energy. The company now boats a wide range of Cradle-to-Cradle certified products, such as the Anso nylon fiber and Eco Solution Q nylon fiber, both of which are made with recycled content and both of which are completely recyclable.

Sometimes companies make items and products that are technically recyclable, but for which viable recycling solutions don't exist. Not so with Shaw's products. The company purchased Evergreen, a carpet recycling facility, in 2005, pumped $30 million into it to increase its efficiency and capacity, and has now recycled more than 244 million pounds of carpet there since 2007.

And the majority of waste carpet that goes in comes back out as brand new carpet. Eighty-five percent of the material has gone from carpet-to-carpet, with 14 percent of the carpet becoming other products' and only 1 percent converted to energy.

Image - Shaw Industries