From the Fall 2023 issue of Plastics Recycling.
By Bruce Geiselman
Circular Polymers by Ascend is transforming post-consumer carpet into Cerene, a new line of recycled polymers and materials made using the company’s proprietary technology.
The Cerene line includes polyamide 6 and 66, PET, polypropylene and calcium carbonate. The recycled materials can be used as a consistent, sustainable feedstock for applications including molding and compounding. The new line can be used in many high-performance applications, which is unusual for post-consumer recycled polymers, according to company officials.
“Customers around the globe are seeking consistent and reliable post-consumer recycled materials,” says Maria Field, business development director of Circular Polymers by Ascend. “Cerene is mechanically recycled using a process that minimizes our carbon footprint and environmental impact.”
Headquartered in Houston, Circular Polymers by Ascend converts post-consumer carpet into fiber and pellets using a proprietary process in its Lincoln, Calif., factory.
The launch of the Cerene line follows Ascend Performance Materials’ purchase last year of a majority stake in Circular Polymers. The new line, thanks in part to Ascend Performance Materials’ experience in providing nylon engineered resins for high-performance applications, can be tailored into compounds to help companies balance their goals of performance and sustainability.
Among the markets Circular Polymers is targeting is the automotive industry, including the manufacturing of electric vehicles, as well as home appliances. The line also offers PET and polypropylene, which are used in consumer products, textiles, engineered wood and other applications.
“Because the nature of post-consumer recycling can lead to variability, one major challenge for manufacturers looking to incorporate recycled feedstock is consistency, quality and reliability of supply,” Field says. “Because of our vertical integration combined with the availability of landfill-bound carpet, we can assure our customers that they can count on consistent, readily available materials that will scale to their needs, even for demanding applications.”
Circular Polymers, which collects its own carpet for recycling and thus better controls the quality of the material in the supply chain, is able through its proprietary mechanical recycling process to produce plastics that can rival virgin materials, Field says.
“In our space, it’s a little bit more challenging because we have to meet the higher thresholds of performance,” Field says. “We have parts under the hood of your car … the thresholds of performance and quality that we need to meet is really, really high.”
While it is not uncommon for post-consumer recycled materials to be used in applications like consumer packaging, its use in high-performance applications is more challenging.
“What Ascend brings to the table is engineering leadership to bring our polyamide products into higher-value, longer-lasting applications,” says Circular Polymers by Ascend CEO David Bender.
The company says it provides new life for virtually every component of the carpet and backing. Circular Polymers by Ascend has redirected 85 million pounds of carpet from landfills into new goods since 2018.
More than 4 billion pounds of carpet goes to the landfill across the United States every year, Bender says. At its California plant, the company can recycle about 95 percent of the material that comes in.
Currently, California is the only state that has an extended producer responsibility (EPR) lawin place for carpet. EPR legislation imposes fees upon the makers or distributors of specified products to help cover the costs of their disposal or environmental mitigation.
New York recently became the second state to enact a carpet EPR law. The New York law goes into effect on Dec. 28, 2024, with implementation of carpet collection programs on July 1, 2026.
As more states enact EPR laws for the carpet industry, it could create additional business opportunities for carpet recyclers.
“We’re working with a number of states who have interest in expanding their circular economy to include carpet,” Bender says. “So, we do see this expanding, and New York, as you know, already passed the law.”
Contact: Circular Polymers by Ascend, Houston, 833-466-3878, www.circularpolymers.com/
Bruce Geiselman, senior staff reporter