The Philadelphia International Airport’s (PHL) sustainability and recycling carpet efforts have been recognized by Shaw Contract with a certificate of appreciation. In 2021, PHL recycled 45 tons of carpet, further expanding PHL’s long-term commitment to sustainability in collaboration with Elliot-Lewis and Shaw Contract.
Although carpets are at times overlooked when thinking about recycling and sustainability, they are one of the most essential items to recycle. In 2017, an industry-government non-profit that develops carpet recycling solutions, Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), estimated that 5 billion carpets were sent to landfills. Within those landfills, carpets can release toxic chemicals into soil and groundwater. The greenhouse gases released from materials found in carpets take hundreds of years to degrade.
“When you can recycle and reuse hundreds of thousands of pounds of carpet, the amount of emissions, energy savings and reduction of plastic in the ecosystem from this is huge and invaluable to the environment,” said Elliot-Lewis Facilities Manager David Hargest. “It goes a long way to help PHL meet and exceed its sustainability goals by exceeding expectations in an overlooked area.”
Over the past decade PHL has reclaimed and recycled about 125 tons (250,000 pounds) of carpet product:
- 2011- Terminals A-West, B, C, D, E and F pedestrian bridges carpets - 23 tons
- 2014 – Terminal A-West Concourse carpets - 31 tons
- 2016 – Terminal B, C, D and E pedestrian bridges and B-C MarketPlace PHL carpets - estimated 16 tons.
- 2018 – Terminal F Ticketing and pedestrian bridges carpet – estimated 10 tons.
- 2021 – Terminal A-West, B, C, D and E pedestrian bridges carpets - 16 tons
- 2021 – Terminal D and E Concourses and holdroom carpets - 29 tons
At PHL, the Division of Aviation’s Facilities and Maintenance Department and Elliot-Lewis staff work together to remove old carpets by wrapping and staging them on large pallets. The pallets are then transferred onto trailers and sent to a Shaw Contract recycling center. The carpet is grounded down to rubber pellets which are then shipped to a manufacturing plant, where they are used as the base in the production of new carpet.
“We continued this commitment to sustainability through all the obstacles and years because we believe in it and know it’s the right thing to do,” said Hargest.
Since 2006, the Shaw Contract group has recycled approximately 1 billion pounds of carpet.
"We are working to reduce our waste stream in as many ways as possible," said PHL Sustainability Manager Jessica Noon. "The commitment of our facilities maintenance team to recycling our used carpeting demonstrates the sustainability ethic that we promote at PHL."