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Wyatt Rollins, director of materials recovery operations, displays recycled material at Shaw plant
These initiatives in infrastructure, equipment, advanced technology and product development will get underway throughout 2015 and 2016, and result in 1,000 new jobs in coming years.

The world's biggest carpet maker is spending $350 million this year and next to upgrade and boost its floorcovering production, but a growing share of that new production is coming from old carpets and rugs.

The Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Industries said Friday it boosted the share of carpet that is recycled to a record high 66 percent of its sales. In its annual corporate sustainability report, Shaw said it recycled 113.7 million pounds of carpet last year, up 52 percent from the previous year's level and the highest volume ever for Shaw.

Shaw Industries, a division of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, is in the midst of a $540 million capital investment program that includes $350 million of expansions that are projected to grow the company's staff across Northwest Georgia.

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CUTLINE: Dalton, Ga.-based Shaw Industries will build a $17 million carpet recycling center in a former Ringgold, Ga. distribution facility, with plans to go operational in 2015. The flooring manufacturer says it has recycled more than 700 million pounds of carpet since it began its voluntary program in 2006.

"These initiatives in infrastructure, equipment, advanced technology and product development will get underway throughout 2015 and 2016, and result in 1,000 new jobs in coming years," Shaw CEO Vance Bell said in releasing the annual sustainability report on Friday. "This is the kind of innovation that creates a more sustainable future."

In May, Shaw opened its new $20 million Evergreen Ringgold facility, which can recycle nylon and polyester fiber. The plant itself represents a kind of recycling of the former Shaw Plant 37, used to make rugs before the plant was shut down more than a year ago.

Shaw said the Ringgold, Ga., plant will create at least 70 new full-time jobs once the facility reaches full capacity.

But at the same time, Shaw said this week it plans to shutter its Evergreen Augusta, Ga., facility in favor of the newer technology in Ringgold. DSM Chemicals North America LLC operated the Evergreen Augusta facility for Shaw.

"Evergreen Ringgold represents a significant step forward and is enhanced by what we've learned over the past decade at Evergreen Augusta and from our strong working relationships with post-consumer carpet collectors throughout the country," Bell said.

Guided by Cradle to Cradle principles, Shaw has led the carpet industry in the volume of recycling of carpet materials. But with the rise in demand for polyester carpet, new processes were needed to help Shaw reuse the new types of carpet being made today' at the end of their useful life.

Paul Murray, vice president of sustainability at Shaw, told FloorDaily.net on Friday that the Ringgold facility uses a new proprietary process "that we worked on for about four years behind the scenes getting ready for this launch."

The new plant is able to handle both of the major types of nylon as well as polyester carpet.

"We needed to find a technology that could do all fiber types and this technology does that," Murray said. "So we invested in a major way in an old plant that had been retired from making rugs a year ago and we're reinventing that plant into a carpet recycling facility that we're really excited about."

The Ringgold plant could be a model for similar plants that may be build elsewhere in the country.

"We have room to put another facility there (in Ringgold) but this model also could be put in other places where the carpet is available to us and/or where the end product is being requested," Murray said.

More than half of carpet made for residential has polyester fiber in it, which hasn't been recycled as much as other types of carpet in the past.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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