Old school carpeting recycled in California

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— The truck finally arrived at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. After it was unloaded, crews at Los Angeles Fibers, a carpet recycling plant in Vernon, Calif., fed more than 20,000 pounds of worn carpeting taken out of Steamboat Springs Middle School and Strawberry Park Elementary School into a carpet-recycling machine.

“The machine doesn’t care what color it is, how old it is, or what it feels like,” L.A. Fibers owner Ron Greitzer said as he described the carpet recycling process. “I need the loads I get from Colorado as much as I need other loads. It was just 10 percent of what we process in a day.”

After the fibers of the carpet — which lined the floors of the Steam­boat schools since 1981 — are reprocessed, the old carpet will be sold as new carpet padding. It took a 53-foot-long trailer to haul the nearly 6,500 square yards of carpeting that was replaced at the schools last week.

“The carpet at the schools was in dreadful shape, and replacing it was something that the school had to do at some point,” Carpet Shoppe owner Bob Sabel said. “Some of the seams were kept together with duct tape.”

The Carpet Shoppe in Steam­boat replaced the carpeting before classes began for the new academic year.

At $1 per square yard, Sabel said the recycling process cost approximately $6,500. He contacted the Mohawk GreenWorks Center, which made the arrangements with L.A. Fibers to have the carpet recycled and reused.

David Epstein, vice president and general manager at Twin Enviro Services, estimated the cost of dumping the carpet in the Milner Landfill to be $2,300, not including labor and transportation costs. Sabel estimated that the price difference between recycling and dumping was nominal because of the large number of trips it would have taken installers to get the carpet to Milner.

“We looked at this and said we’re not going to put this in the landfill,” he said. “We took a product that is garbage, and here it’s going to be used for something else.”

The new carpeting at the schools was paid for by a $305,000 bond fund expenditure approved by the Steamboat Springs School Board in June. The project was one of several items outlined in the school district’s master plan that identified $1.9 million in maintenance needs at Steamboat schools.

Denise Connelly was the only board member to vote against the funding for the carpeting. She said it was not a top priority for the schools.

“We definitely need to make sure we have money in our capital fund for emergencies, but I do not feel carpeting should take the place of other emergency funds like potential roof repairs,” she said Thursday. “We need to be looking at how much money we’re allocating for these capital expenditure projects.”

Steamboat Springs School Dis­trict Superintendent Shalee Cun­ningham said the new carpeting was long overdue.

“For me, this was a health and safety issue,” she said. “It was at the top of the list for how we spend deferred maintenance money.”

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