How to Trim Carpet Industry Waste

Buildings consume more than their fair share of resources—36 percent of all of this country’s energy supply (compared to cars’ 27 percent). They create a lot of waste in turn. Carpet alone comprises 2 percent of landfill waste—as much as 2.5 million tons of the stuff is discarded every year.

Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Tricycle, run by Michael Hendrix and Jonathan Bragdon, is seeking to trim some of the waste in the carpet industry. According to Hendrix, manufacturers spend $1 billion each year on strike-offs. These strike-offs, or samples, are necessary to the design process, but they account for as much as 10 percent of annual carpet waste. Reducing the number of strike-offs could cut waste as well as costs.

Tricycle’s new computer program, SIM Surface Simulation Version 2, computerizes samples, eliminating the need for strike-offs. SIM has been under development since 1997. Different approaches to the virtual sample process have, in the past, yielded unsatisfactory results. Most have been based on the idea of photographic image manipulation, yielding inaccurate colors and textures.

SIM V2, Hendrix says, “creates photorealistic images—though they are not really photos—from the actual combined yarn colors, tufting machine, and design data. The image not only looks like real carpet, but actually contains data about the product, such as how much yarn is required to tuft it or how much it will cost to manufacture.” It’s virtual reality for the carpet industry.

The technology also eliminates a virtual headache for designers. Typically, strike-offs which are used by designers on custom orders, are one of the banes of the interior design office. They’re bulky and compete for limited library shelf space. Perhaps even worse, says Peter Stamberg, principal of Stamberg Aferiat Architecture in New York City, are loose carpet samples. At his office, “they get tossed in a box of loose samples, and then the labels fall off. So by the time you want it, you can’t figure out what kind it is. Then you find out it’s no longer in production anyway.”

By sticking to computer images, SIM V2 does not waste the designers’ library space. The innovation couldn’t come at a better time, when programs like the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) demonstrate a widespread concern about carpet reclamation and recycling. CARE is a voluntary initiative of the carpet industry and government to prevent carpet from burdening landfills.

“With technological advances like this,” Hendrix says, “carpet manufacturers may actually lead the way for sustainable design within the textiles industry.”

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