Thanks to an innovative collaboration between the IU Bloomington Purchasing Department and a for-profit floor covering manufacturer, the final resting place for thousands of square yards of old carpeting will not be a landfill site in south central Indiana.
Photo by Chris Meyer
Karin Coopersmith (left), of IUB's Purchasing Department, Ryan McNelis, a student intern from SPEA, and Hoosier Floor Covering co-owners MaryAnn and Mark Dougherty stand at the back of the trailer where carpets are dropped off for recycling.
Karin Coopersmith, a purchasing contract manager in the IUB Purchasing Department,
was impressed with vendor Interface Flooring’s approach to
recycling carpeting and saw a great opportunity for IU to
partner with them. “This company takes recycling to another
level. They not only recycle carpet for fuel, but to make
new carpeting and other materials,” Coopersmith said. “In
the past, it cost the university a lot to get rid of the carpet,
but since Interface has provided a trailer and is willing
to haul it away, we’re not only saving money, we’re doing
our part to help the environment."
Coopersmith applied to the “Green Internship” program for assistance in getting the research done to determine whether or not the project was viable. Paul Schneller, who is coordinator of development for the IUB Physical Plant, launched the Green Internship Program in 1998, while working with the IUB Council for Environmental Stewardship. This semester, the internship program boasted three participating departments—IU Purchasing, the IUB Physical Plant and the IU Office of Environmental Safety—and ten projects, including Coopersmith’s carpet recycling venture.
Ryan McNelis, a senior from Fishers, and a management major at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), heard about the Green Internship Program and was eager to work with Coopersmith. “I chose the program because of its SPEA connection and because it would have a positive impact on the community and environment,” McNelis said. McNelis’ task was to determine how much carpeting IUB is using, whether or not it was cost-efficient to participate in the proposed program and what level of interest there was at IU to recycle the carpeting.
“The most challenging aspect to the program was just becoming familiar with the processes and language used for all the types of flooring on campus,” McNelis added. “Karin guided me in the right direction throughout the semester and helped me get in touch with the necessary people to gather information.”
McNelis found that more than 21,000 square yards of carpeting
was removed in 2003 and that there was strong interest in
recycling carpeting in the future. Coopersmith said that after
a conference call with Judy Lafferty of Residential Programs
and Services, Bob Breeden at the Physical Plant and Kelly
Reed in the University Architect’s Office, the project was
full-speed ahead.. “Although there are some pilot programs
at various schools, IU is the first university in the nation
to participate in a program like this on a wholesale basis.”
A trailer placed by Interface Flooring is stationed at Hoosier Floor Covering Warehouse in Bloomington to collect up to 5,000 square yards of carpeting. When the Tree Suites at the Indiana Memorial Union are spruced up later this spring, 1,100 of shabby not-so-chic carpet will be deposited there. The Physical Plant is moving into its busiest season for replacing carpet, said Coopersmith. “We do this when there are fewer people on campus. Had I not had Ryan to do the research, it would have been hard for us to participate in the recycling program. The timing is perfect.”
“The most rewarding aspect of being part of this program is knowing that in the future, carpet removed from campus will be recycled rather than sent to landfill,” McNelis concluded.
To learn more about the Green Internship Program, contact Schneller at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit
For more information about Interface Flooring’s sustainability program, go to