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State Agency Critical Of Carpet Industry's Failed Recycling Program

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- Once hailed as an important step in making the carpet industry greener, a landmark 2010 California law intended to encourage recycling isn't achieving its goals.

Some argue the law is in serious need of fixing.

Buy carpet in California, and you'll pay a fee: an extra 20 cents per square yard goes to a program called "CARE" or Carpet America Recovery Effort.

The program is run by the carpet industry.

It helps promote recycling, or it's supposed to anyway, a carpet store owner told KPIX 5.

But a state review found only about 10 percent of old carpets are actually getting recycled, far short of the program's stated 16 percent goal.

The rest is going to landfills or being incinerated.

"It's not working well," said Heidi Sanborn of the California Product Stewardship Council. "Most Californians don't even know that we have a recycling program for carpets."

Tuesday in Sacramento, Cal-Recycle -- the state agency that promotes waste reduction -- called CARE on the carpet.

During the Cal-Recycle meeting. CARE was accused of being in violation of the carpet stewardship violation laws.

"I know a lot of people look at it as excuses, but there are a lot of things that happened that are outside of our control," said CARE representative Bob Peoples.

CARE blames difficulties in recycling, a delay in getting major recycling plant online and a collapse in the price of commodities.

Carpet makers are promising to do more, including stamping carpets with information that will help recyclers identify what is and isn't recyclable.

But the state is skeptical.

"We did ask for more detail," said CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline.

Smithline says he'll likely reject CARE's proposal for how it will run the program for the next five years, giving CARE more time to figure out some new plans to deal with old carpet.

"It's already been six years. It's just not working," said Sanborn.

CalRecycle will announce its decision Wednesday.

CARE could face penalties for failing to implement an effective recycling plan.

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