Innovation in places you wouldn’t expect

The Bay Area is full of tech innovators, and seldom are the achievements of the entrepreneur who operates outside of Software, Internet or Biotech recognized. Ellen Raynor the owner/operator of SF Carpet Recycling is the kind of person I’m talking about. Full disclosure, Ellen is a close family friend, but I think you will agree her efforts are commendable in taking recycling to the next level.

SF Carpet Recycling is a collection site for post consumer carpet and carpet pad for the San Francisco Bay Area. Conveniently located in the 3rd Street corridor in the southeast part of San Francisco, we accept used carpet for the purpose of recycling.

For every 10 million pounds of post-consumer carpet recycled:

• 50,000 cubic yards of landfill space is saved

• 70 million pounds of GHG emissions are avoided (CO2 equivalents)

According to the 2006 CARE Annual Report

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-W3Xyl0JMM[/youtube]

Most carpet is recycled into carpet padding, not really optimal, but Raynor is trying to find new products that could be manufactured with the recycled carpet. She has already prototyped a smallish, lightweight, seemingly very durable wheel that could be used for many applications. And therein lies the challenge in this business, finding new consumers of the raw materials produced by carpet recycling.

More detail from a recent article in the Chron on Carpet recycling:

Old carpet is just a sliver of the overall waste stream, 1.6 percent of all trash collected in San Francisco by Norcal Waste Systems. But that still adds up to more than 16 million pounds each year in San Francisco and 5 billion pounds nationally. And historically, nearly all of that used carpet has gone into landfills.
“It’s a big deal because of its weight, and because it doesn’t break down,” said Ken Stewart, operations manager for San Francisco Recycling & Disposal, Norcal’s recycling division.

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