Rolling Out The Red Carpet

May 23, 2005
Shaw's waste-to-energy project promises to stabilize power costs at its Dalton, Ga., plant. Estimated annual savings: $2.5 million.

By the end of this year, the Dalton, Ga., carpet-making operations of Shaw Industries Inc. will start transforming carpet and wood manufacturing waste into operating benefits. A new facility adjacent to the Dalton plant will begin converting the production waste into gas to fuel a boiler capable of more than 50,000 pounds of steam per hour

Bill Barron, Shaw's vice president of manufacturing, says the project annually will convert about 16,000 tons of post-manufacturing and post-consumer carpet waste and 6,000 tons of wood. Annual savings of $2.5 million, figured at today's energy cost, will become even more significant if energy costs continue to rise. The city of Dalton also will benefit because, says Barron, the conversion project virtually will eliminate Shaw's post-manufacturing landfill operations in Dalton.

"Shaw now has in the plans a firm, fixed, energy price for its Dalton, Ga., plant," says Clark Wiedetz, energy business development manager, Siemens Building Technologies Inc. His organization has design, construction and servicing responsibilities for the conversion facility. "With the potential for rising oil and gas prices, that could be a huge competitive advantage in a price-sensitive industry," adds Wiedetz.

Currently fuel oil handles the plant's base load, explains Shaw's Gary Nichols, corporate energy manager. That will change as the waste-to-energy project begins operation. Last year, boiler operation at the Dalton plant required about

3 million gallons of fuel oil. Nichols calculates that the energy conversion project will take over the base load by reducing annual fuel oil usage to about 300,000 gallons.

Nichols says the Dalton project is serving as a role model, a proof-of-concept that may lead to its adoption by the company's other carpet-making facilities. He says Shaw's subsequent waste-to-energy implementations also will handle post-consumer waste. The intent is to help fulfill the environmental goals of CARE, the Carpet America Recovery Effort. As an industry member of CARE, Shaw is committed to enabling the recycling of 40% of post-consumer carpet waste destined for landfills by 2012. Current annual diversions subtract about 100 million pounds from the 4.6 billion pounds destined for U.S. landfills.

Nichols says the Dalton facility will help validate and optimize engineering presumptions on gasifier design and performance for future applications. He says a remaining challenge is creating a waste-feeding design for future installations that have post-consumer waste as their feedstock. "

To Nichols the Dalton waste-handling project represents a view of manufacturing plants of the future. "That will be a time when environmental strategies and concerns will be even more critical to enterprise success and good business management."

Shaw's overall environmental vision of the future goes beyond waste-to-energy projects to embrace the philosophies put forth by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in "Cradle To Cradle, Remaking The Way We Make Things" (2002, North Point Press). The authors contend that products can be composed either of materials that biodegrade and become food for biological cycles or of technical materials that stay in closed-loop technical cycles. The goal: Eliminate entirely the concept of waste.

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